Coastal Tourism Hub putting ‘hidden gems’ on the map

Participants at the Coastal Tourism Hub masterclass on social media, included are Bill McCartney of Netwise Owls and Kelli Bagchus, manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise. INCT 23-044-GR
Participants at the Coastal Tourism Hub masterclass on social media, included are Bill McCartney of Netwise Owls and Kelli Bagchus, manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise. INCT 23-044-GR

Over 20 tourism providers took part in Carrickfergus Enterprise’s first seminar in the innovative Coastal Tourism Hub programme.

The Tourism Social Media masterclass, facilitated by Bill McCartney of Netwise Owls, drew participants from Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey.

In a highly interactive event, those in attendance learnt how to use social media such as Facebook and Instagram to market and boost their business. It also helped them understand how to engage with new audiences and encourage visitors to share their travel stories, experiences, interests and passion through posts, photographs and videos.

The programme is one of seven in Northern Ireland funded by Coastal Communities Fund (Big Lottery) and was developed by Carrickfergus Enterprise in response to feedback from local businesses.

Kelli Bagchus, manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise, said: “The Coastal Tourism Hub is designed to equip local tourism providers with the ‘know how’ and ‘know who’ in order to take advantage of the many opportunities tourism can offer.

“As well as the seminars, the package of support includes one-to-one mentoring in area such as marketing to increase awareness of the business. There is also an opportunity to develop social media or upgrade their website. Participating businesses will also benefit from access to WorldHost customer care training and mystery shopping.

“A key aspect of the programme is the development of a joint marketing approach that will include a visitor map of the coastal region as well as a joint website.”

We also aim to develop linkages with complementary businesses in order to enhance the overall tourism experience’.”

This approach, Kelli added, fits in with the draft Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland which aims to attract visitor numbers in excess of four million and generate revenue of £1 billion per year by 2020.

Recruitment for the programme, which aims to promote the ‘hidden gems’ in the district, began in March and the last few participants have just been enrolled with a total of 30 on board. Support available is free and further seminars and WorldHost training will take place in the Autumn and early 2016.

Preparations are currently underway to design the visitor map and website and these will be launched later in the year.

The Coastal Communities Fund which supports the hub is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates Marine Assets. It is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of the UK Government and the devolved administration in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

For further information, contact Kelli at kelli@ceal.co.uk or 028 93 369528