Following the success of the East Antrim Coastal Way pilot programme, a new programme has been launched to cover tourism businesses in the Glens coastal area from Ballygally to Ballycastle and Rathlin Island.
Thirty tourism providers are now confirmed and on board to take part including a range of local hotels, restaurants and operators of tourist attractions and experiences.
The overall goal of the project is to develop the capacity and confidence of these local businesses and help them take increase sales, enhance visitor experiences and fully take advantage of the huge opportunities tourism can offer. A range of support is available including business mentoring, ICT support, WorldHost training, mystery shopping and a joint marketing campaign which will include a visitor map and website.
The project is funded by Coastal Communities Fund which is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estate Marine Assets.It is delivered by Big Lottery on behalf of the UK Government and the devolved administration in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Kelli Bagchus, Manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise, said: â€œFollowing on from the success of our East Antrim Coastal Route programme and tourism map, we were approached by businesses in the Glens area to develop another application to the Coastal Communities Fund.
â€œWe have had an overwhelming response from businesses in the area and we have selected 30 to take part in the programme.The group shows the range of tourism businesses in the area, including businesses as diverse as the Dark Hedges Estate, the Ballygally Castle Hotel, The Irish Seaweed Company and Laragh Lodge Restaurant.â€
She added: â€œThis programme offers participants expert advice on how to market their business, use social media effectively and take advantage of opportunities in the sector. Tourism is a key driver of the Northern Ireland economy and our goal is to make sure that smaller tourism businesses have access to the resources they need to grow.â€
Programme participant Gillian Thompson, owner of The Irish Seaweed Company, commented: â€œIt is a fantastic initiative that will help showcase the hidden gems of the Glens Coast.There are a lot of small businesses in this area and the programme will help develop awareness and drive tourism.
â€œAs a result of taking part in the programme, we are already planning to redesign our website and I am attending workshops on how to better engage with customers on social media.â€