Local Travel and Tourism Bodies Win Big at the 2021 Northern Ireland Travel & Tourism Awards in association with Blue Insurance

ANITA, NITA, Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland all recognised at this year's very special Northern Ireland Travel & Tourism Awards, held in the magnificent surroundings of the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa

The 29th Northern Ireland Travel & Tourism Awards in association with Blue Insurance took place on Friday October 15 in a glittering ceremony at the iconic Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Newcastle.

The Awards winners this year truly reflect the unprecedented time this industry has gone through in the past two years since the last Awards, held in 2019.

The ceremony this year had many changes, with some categories dropped for this year and replaced with Awards to reward those individuals and companies for the support given during the pandemic.

New categories included Unsung Hero (recognising the travel agent who has gone above and beyond during the past year), Best Trade Engagement, Trade Innovation and Best Trade Support.

There have been many agents who have raised their game during the pandemic, but one agent stands tall against others. That’s why this year’s Unsung Hero Award went to Anne Moffett from Dunlop Travel in Newcastle, County Down.

Anne was a novice when it came to promoting her business on social media channels, but quickly learnt that it was the most effective channel to widen her customer base.

When confidence started to return to the market, she was actively promoting Dunlop Travel the length and breadth of Northern Ireland – and securing business from new customers who would never have heard of Dunlop Travel before.

Normal trading hours meant nothing to Anne and was happy to take calls at any time of the day or night and it wasn’t unusual for Anne to be calling suppliers on her mobile phone to make a booking from the aisles of her local supermarket.

Anne has continued to secure business from new customers, and as we return to normal trading, Dunlop Travel will exit from the pandemic as a stronger and more pro-active agency.

Damian Murphy from ANITA was this year’s very worthy recipient of the 2021 NI Travel Special Award, having been at the forefront of the NI travel Agents plight during the pandemic.

He has been thrown into pleading the case for support not just from our local executive, but also liaising with bodies across the UK and Ireland in an effort to highlight the lack of support for the members of the newly formed Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents.

Taking on the unfamiliar role of dealing with media interviews and putting in a considerable amount of time to lobby for support for his sector, meeting with members at the highest level of local government, all this while helping to safeguard the future of his own family business.
His contribution cannot be underestimated.

Damian Murphy and Tracy Duffy from the Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents (ANITA) collected the NI Travel Industry Award. During the last eighteen months the industry has been under unprecedented pressure to survive and through this period we have looked for leadership and direction for help.

The recipients of the 2021 NI Travel Industry Award have spearheaded the cause of the NI Travel Agents.
Brought together by a common interest at the start of the pandemic to give a voice to local Travel Agents, the group was formed with no funding or structure.

Collating the information needed to present to government in a bid for any financial assistance that was available, keeping their industry colleagues informed and giving a lead in lobbying their local political representatives.

With limited experience, their achievements in keeping the travel agents cause in the headlines deserves recognition from all in the local travel industry.

The Northern Ireland Tourism Special Achievement Award 2021 was presented to Dr Joanne Stuart OBE of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance (NITA).

In the past eighteen months during the pandemic, Joanne has spearheaded the case for support for our local tourism industry members.

As CEO of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, she gave constant updates to her members, sometimes twice and three times a day, with invaluable information to navigate the crisis in the sector.

She was also instrumental in the lobbying of government putting tourism high on the government agenda, producing reports on the scale of the crisis and the gap in financial support.

Always willing to comment across all media platforms, her contribution to the tourism industry voice was a major contributor to any help the tourism sector received.

The Northern Ireland Tourism Industry Award 2021 was this year joint presented to Tourism Ireland and Tourism NI in recognition of their collaborative approach with industry and stake holders during the pandemic and beyond, aiding Recovery and refocusing the market with the Tourism Ireland Green button campaign and the Tourism NI Good to GO Industry standard – Covid reassurance marker and the Central Marketing Partnership Group covering all island insights and engagement with global operators.

The Tourism NI Staycation Summer campaign also added Significant growth of the Republic of Ireland market in 2020 and 2021 through a targeted marketing campaign to aid recovery and refocusing the market and moving forward the Tourism Ireland’s GB Marketing campaign will support and deliver from Autumn – Spring 2021/22 to aid recovery and growth.

Jonathan Adair of NI Travel News, organisers of the Awards said: “It was a fantastic night to catch up with our industry colleagues after the cancellation of last years event. We were able to properly reward all parts of our industry for the hard work over the last eighteen months.

The new awards were a true reflection of the difficult conditions in which the travel industry had to operate during the pandemic.

We were delighted to organise the event and congratulations to all the winners, and a massive thanks for the support of our sponsors in these challenging times.

This year also saw the addition of a new category sponsor in George Best Belfast City Airport. Over the past year, the airport has added new routes and airlines to its portfolio, following a difficult 2020, looking forward to brighter times.

This years Awards ceremony was hosted by local comedian Paddy Raff, a man that has kept a smile on our faces over the last 18 months. With his sell-out stage shows, national TV show and the frequent production of viral content on social media, he is one of the biggest names on the current comedy scene.

Guests were welcomed on the evening with a drinks reception hosted by Titanic Distillers while later in the evening Jet2holidays provided the evenings entertainment (which included a late night pizza party!)

Hospitality was sponsored by Tourism Ireland and British Airways with a fantastic ‘Taste of Ireland’ menu and wine choice served up to guests. Dishes included Salad of Thornhill Duck, a Glastry Farm Green Apple and Titanic Distillers Whiskey Sour Sorbet, Roulade of Butter Poached Armagh Chicken, Shortcross Gin Bramble & Tipperary Mascarpone Torte and Homemade Irish Fudge. Wines on the evening were Allumea Grillo Chardonnay and Allumea Mero D’Avola.

The sponsors for the 2021 Awards and Ceremony were: Blue Insurance, Stena Line, Travel Solutions, Hard Rock Tenerife / Palladium Hotel Group, Silversea, George Best Belfast City Airport, Jet2holidays, Tourism Ireland, British Airways, Titanic Distillers, U105 and NI Travel News.

The Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards  are organised by Northern Ireland Travel News in association with Blue Insurance.

You can view the full list of winners below:

  • Best Visitor Information Centre 2021 – Visit Belfast
  • Best NI Visitor Attraction 2021 – Titanic Belfast
  • NI Tourism Industry Award 2021 – Tourism Ireland / Tourism NI
  • NI Special Achievement Award 2021 – Dr Joanne Stuart OBE
  • Best Luxury Cruise Line 2021 – Silversea Cruises
  • Best River Cruise Line 2021 – Riviera Cruises
  • Best Cruise Line 2021 – Royal Caribbean International
  • Best Travel Insurance Company 2021 – Blue Insurance
  • Best Destination Award 2021 – Spain
  • Best Ferry Company 2021 – Stena Line
  • Best UK Airline 2021 – easyJet
  • Best Airline to Europe 2021 – Jet2.com
  • Best Airline Worldwide 2021 – Emirates
  • Best Holiday Add-Ons or Car Hire Provider 2021 – Do Something Different
  • Best Ski Operator 2021 – Travel Solutions/ Balkan Ski
  • Best Escorted Tours Operator 2021 – Travel Solutions
  • Best Tour Operator to Europe 2021 – Jet2holidays
  • Best Hotel Group 2021 – Palladium Hotel Group
  • Best Accommodation Only Specialist 2021 – STUBA
  • Best Worldwide Tour Operator 2021 – Gold Medal
  • Best Specialist Tour Operator 2021 – Travel Solutions
  • Best Luxury Operator 2021 – if only …
  • Best Trade Engagement Award 2021 – Jet2holidays
  • Best Trade Innovation Award 2021 – Jet2holidays
  • NI Travel Special Award 2021 – Damian Murphy
  • NI Travel Industry Award 2021 – ANITA
  • NI Travel Agent Unsung Hero Award 2021 – Anne Moffett
  • Outstanding Trade Support Award 2021 – Kathryn Davies
  • Northern Ireland Travel Agent of the Year 2021 – Oasis Travel, Lisburn