Council shines a light on Chinese links

The Braid in Ballymena and an image from a local Chinese New Year celebratory event.
The Braid in Ballymena and an image from a local Chinese New Year celebratory event.

Mid and East Antrim Council’s headquarters will turn red today to celebrate this year’s Chinese Lantern Festival and the borough’s increasingly strong tourism links with China.

The Braid will join with other buildings throughout Europe marking 2018 EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY).

Cultural events involving both local and Chinese communities will accompany the illumination of the landmarks in several locations.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said: “The Lantern Festival can be traced back more than 2,000 years and traditionally marks the end of Chinese New Year Spring Festival. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and promote Chinese culture.

“A key priority in Mid and East Antrim is developing our tourism potential and China is vital to that vision. According to the latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, China is now the world’s largest outbound travel market with more than 127 million people travelling overseas each year, spending over $292 billion. By 2020 Chinese travellers are expected to take over 200 million overseas trips.

“We are committed to promoting culture here and in China and doing all we can to showcase our fantastic tourism offering to the Chinese market and win a greater share of the four million Chinese visitors who travel to Europe each year.”

Council is currently working along with its tourism partners to ensure it is ideally positioned to encourage Chinese tourists to include Mid and East Antrim in their travel plans. Tourism staff recently introduced key players in the local industry to a new training initiative, aimed at attracting more Chinese tourists to the area.

The Chinese Tourist Welcome (CTW) Training Programme, facilitated by the Centre for Competitiveness (CforC), involves Mid and East Antrim hoteliers, major attractions and council’s tourism staff.

Mr Reid added: “Tourism spend is worth £46.2million annually to the local economy with almost 4,000 people working in the tourism sector in Mid and East Antrim.

“Council is working to maximise the area’s incredible attractions, including the stunning Causeway Coastal Route and The Gobbins, by partnering hospitality providers to ensure they have all the skills they need to attract visitors from around the globe.

“We aim to provide support through skills training and enhancing local knowledge to ensure our superb hospitality providers have all the tools they need to make Mid and East Antrim a must-visit destination when people are planning their holidays.”