The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) held its council meeting at the Ulster Museum whilst delegates also had the opportunity to trial a new visitor experience at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum and share insights and best practice with National Museums.
The two day event was attended by around 60 directors and senior managers from the UK’s leading attractions. Speakers at the conference included National Museums NI, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford University Museums), and the UK Forestry Commission.
Specialist curators from National Museums NI gave delegates a highlight tour of the Ulster Museum’s The Troubles and Beyond exhibition, Game of Thrones tapestry and Elements gallery.
The visitors enjoyed dinner at Cultra Manor at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, sponsored by Tourism NI. Delegates also took part in a newly developed behind the scenes folklore experience entitled Museum Staff, their Stories and their Secrets which shared the dark and ‘ghostly’ side of working in the museum.
Welcoming delegates, National Museums NI’s Chief Executive, Kathryn Thomson commented: “Were proud to welcome UK tourism leaders from some of the most prestigious visitor attractions across the UK to our unique sites to showcase our museums and to trial a new visitor experience with our peers.”
“National Museums NI attract around 800,000 visitors a year from Northern Ireland and from across the world. Our museums make an invaluable contribution to what makes Northern Ireland an attractive place to live, work and visit. We make a significant economic impact for the region and help build Northern Ireland’s reputation on an international stage.”
“We are thrilled to showcase some of our most popular exhibitions at the Ulster Museum to ALVA members and for them to experience the knowledge and expertise of our visitor guides at the Folk Museum at first hand.”
Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, said: “I was delighted that this tourism leaders’ summit was hosted by National Museums NI at the Ulster Museum this year. It has been only the second time that tourism and attractions’ leaders from across the UK have met in Northern Ireland and we wanted to return now to reflect the importance of the visitor economy to Northern Ireland and of the significant growth in visitor numbers and spending in recent years.
“National Museums NI have shown in recent years that they are prepared to be more open, more welcoming, braver and more creative with their programming and this has resulted in more and more visitors who return to their sites again and again. I know that our members – from Edinburgh Castle and Buckingham Palace, the National Trust and the Palace of Westminster, Stonehenge to Warner Bros studio tours – enjoyed seeing the tourism successes of Northern Ireland for themselves.”
Tourism NI’s Chief Executive John McGrillen said: “We’re delighted that the Association chose Northern Ireland as the venue for its latest council meeting, at a time when we’re experiencing unprecedented growth – not only in visitor numbers but in our portfolio of hotel accommodation and the sheer variety of things to see and do. We hope that while they are here, the group will have an opportunity to experience some of our very own world-beating attractions at first hand and to hear about National Museums NI’s exciting plans for the future.”