THE new Seamus Heaney HomePlace visitor attraction in
Bellaghy, which welcomed 40,000 visitors in its first year, was a
big winner at the 26th Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism
Awards, organised by Northern Ireland Travel News in
association with Blue Insurance.

The Awards gala, attended by more than 430 decision
makers from the travel and tourism industry in the UK and
Ireland, was hosted by Alexander Armstrong, presenter of BBC
1’s Pointless quiz show, in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa,
Newcastle.
The Seamus Heaney HomePlace arts and literary centre,
which celebrated its first anniversary a few weeks ago and
celebrates the Nobel Laureate’s life and literature in an
exhibition filled with personal stories, photographs and
artefacts, received the Award for the Best Northern Ireland
Visitor Attraction.
Visitors from around 20 countries – including the USA,
Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, Italy,
Denmark, China and Japan – have all made their mark on the
map in the centre which allows visitors from all over the world to
pinpoint own ‘home place’.
The Awards Gala was also a special night for Uel Hoey,
Business Development Director of Belfast International Airport,
who has just begun his 30th year with BIAL. Uel received the
Northern Ireland Tourism Special Achievement Award.
Uel’s task has been to find and secure new air routes in and
out of the Province for the past decade, but recently he pulled
off a tourism coup for Northern Ireland – playing a major role in
persuading the successful Routes Europe Forum to hold its four
day conference in Belfast last April. With a line up of more than
100 airlines, almost 400 airports and 40 overseas tourism
organisations, the Routes Europe Forum’s decision to come to
Belfast is certain to pay big dividends for the Province – and the
city in particular – in future years.


Meanwhile, after 26 years, the prestigious and much coveted
Northern Ireland Travel Agent of the Year award has a new
winner – a Downpatrick family owned and run business. After
being in the final assessments conducted by anonymous callers
over a number of years, Downe Travel at last landed the big
one – the title of ‘Travel Agent of the Year’.
The win is a deserved accolade for the work over many years
of owner Marie Gallagher, and in recent years that of son Paul
who has taken over much of the day to day running of the
highly respected family concern .
The coveted Travel Agent of the Year title won by Downe
Travel was decided in the final analysis by mystery shoppers
and cold callers after an original shortlist drawn up after votes
by the travelling public.

Meanwhile, the 2017 Northern Ireland Travel Industry Award
went to the Province’s best known and most high profile figure
in the travel industry, Doreen McKenzie.
Doreen has been a lifetime in the travel industry, establishing
her own business, Knock Travel, 37 years ago before selling it
earlier this year. For the past 17 years she has sat at the
industry’s top table, the Board of Directors of ABTA, until
recently, but she still remains a member of a number of
influential ABTA committees.
She is also as familiar to the travelling public as to the Trade
for her continuing role as an Agony Aunt for consumer related
travel topics, and still appears regularly on radio on consumer
rights programmes. An expert in legislation and how it affects
the dynamic of the rapidly changing travel industry Doreen is
always willing to offer advice to local travel businesses.
The award for the Oustanding Contribution to NI Tourism went
to the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen for the massive contribution it
has made to the promotion of tourism in the Fermanagh
Lakelands, particularly over the last four decades when owned
by the Watson family. It continues to expand and enhance its
operations, most recently with another 14 lakeside lodges
costing almost £1.5 million.
A Bangor travel agent, Chandra Rowan of Feherty Travel,
won the hotly contested Travel Consultant of the Year award,
introduced for the first time in 2014.

The short-listed finalists were decided on votes of the
travelling public and then had to go through a testing interview
session with their travel industry peers. Chandra’s success is the
second for Feherty’s in three years – Scott Parker won the
award in 2015..


Belfast Metropolitan College student Lauren Willis, now
working for Historic Royal Palaces at Hillsborough Castle, is the
winner of the Travel Student of the Year award organised and
sponsored by Northern Ireland Travel News; while one of the
Province’s best known and most respected travel agents
Ciaran O’Hare from Enniskillen was the new name on the
industry’s roll of honour. Ciaran retired from his long established
travel agency business, Erne Travel, just over a year ago.
The winner of the Best Tourist Board category was the Spanish
Tourist Board. The award was in recognition of its continued
popularity with Northern Ireland holidaymakers and its ongoing
promotions and efforts to keep Spain as the UK, and Northern
Ireland’s, top package holiday destination.
First time Award winners on the night included Hurtigruten
which won the Best Specialist Cruise Line category and Room
Team/WTC, winner in the Best Accommodation Only Specialist
company.
The full list of Awards and Winners was:
BEST
TOURIST
INFORMATION
CENTRE
2015
‐ Belfast
Welcome
Centre
NI

TOURISM
SPECIAL
ACHIEVEMENT
AWARD
2015 – Uel
Hoey
OUTSTANDING
CONTRIBUTION
TO
NI
TOURISM – Killyhevlin
Hotel
BEST
NI
VISITOR
ATTRACTION
2015 ‐ Seamus
Heaney
HomePlace
NI
TRAVEL
STUDENT
OF
THE
YEAR
2015 ‐ Lauren
Willis
BEST
TRAVEL
INSURANCE
COMPANY
– Blue
Insurance
BEST
LUXURY
CRUISE
LINE
– Silversea
BEST
SPECIALIST
CRUISE
LINE
– Hurtigruten
BEST
CRUISE
LINE
– Royal
Caribbean
BEST
HOLIDAY
ADD‐ONS
OR
CAR
HIRE
PROVIDER
– Holiday
Extras
BEST
AIRLINE,
BELFAST
CITY
AIRPORT
– Aer
Lingus
BEST
AIRLINE,
BELFAST
INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT
– easyJet
BEST
AIRLINE
WORLDWIDE
– Emirates
BEST
FERRY
COMPANY
– Stena
Line
BEST
ACCOMMODATION
ONLY
SPECIALIST
– Room
Team/WTC
BEST
TRAVEL
INDUSTRY
INTERNET
BOOKING
SYSTEM
– Jet2holidays
BEST
WORLDWIDE
TOUR
OPERATOR
– Gold
Medal/Travel
2
BEST
SPECIALIST
TOUR
OPERATOR
– American
Holidays
BEST
LUXURY
TOUR
OPERATOR
– If
Only…
6
BEST
SKI
OPERATOR
– Topflight
BEST
TOUR
OPERATOR
TO
EUROPE
– Jet2holidays
BEST
TOURIST
BOARD
– Spanish
Tourist
Board
TRAVEL
TRADE
MANAGER/REPRESENTATIVE
OF
THE
YEAR
– Robert
Wilson
NI
TRAVEL
MARKETING
INITIATIVE
2017
–
Car
Give
Away
Promotion,
Blue
Insurance
BEST
SALES
SUPPORT
TEAM
TO
NI
TRAVEL
TRADE
– Travel
Solutions
NI
TRAVEL
&
TOURISM
INDUSTRY’S
ROLL
OF
HONOUR
– Ciaran
O’Hare
NI
TRAVEL
CONSULTANT
OF
THE
YEAR
2017
– Chandra
Rowan
BEST
NI
MULTIPLE
RETAIL
AGENCY
BRANCH
2017
– Thomson,
Newry
NI
TRAVEL
INDUSTRY
AWARD
2017
– Doreen
McKenzie
NORTHERN
IRELAND
TRAVEL
AGENT
OF
THE
YEAR
– Downe
Travel
NI
TRAVEL
INDUSTRY
AWARD
2017
– Doreen
McKenzie
NI
TRAVEL
AGENT
OF
THE
YEAR
2017
– Downe
Travel

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