25th anniversary celebrations at Newcastle visitor centre

25th anniversary celebrations at Newcastle visitor centre

5 June 2019

THE Newcastle visitor information centre has celebrated its 25th anniversary.

A quarter of a century after it opened its doors, the special birthday was officially recognised last week during a short ceremony at its Central Promenade base.

Joining Newry, Mourne and Down Council chairman Charlie Casey at the event was Tourism NI chief executive, John McGrillen — a former Down Council chairman — officials from both organisations and representatives from the local tourism industry.  

The information centre, which was officially opened in May 1994 by former South Down MP Eddie McGrady, was established with funding from Down Council and the then Northern Ireland Tourist Board, with the facility one of a network of tourist information centres throughout Northern Ireland. 

At last Friday’s ceremony, the council chairman said he was delighted to celebrate what he described as this “important milestone” for the centre. 

“Newcastle is rightly one of our premier resorts and it is important to mark such an occasion,” he said. “Over the years of its operation, there have been many changes, both for staff and in the way that we help our many visitors. 

“Technology has made a huge difference; our visitors are now able to make better preparations before visiting the area with a list of things to do and see prepared before their arrival.”

Cllr Casey also revealed that some of those who stop at the centre say that they are encouraged to “see more, do more and stay longer” after speaking with staff.

He continued: “Learning about the area from someone who has first-hand knowledge really makes a difference on how to get the most out of a visit.

“I look forward to visitor information centre continuing its excellent work, helping visitors to have ‘epic’ experiences and supporting the council in its ambition to make our area one of the premier tourism destinations in Ireland.”  

Mr McGrillen said his organisation’s research “emphatically points” to the positive role that visitor information staff play in creating an excellent visitor experience. 

He explained: “The friendly welcome and local knowledge provided by staff was the highest ranking score in our recently published visitor attitudes survey findings.”

During its 25 years, staff at the Newcastle centre have dealt with over 1.25m visitors, from countries across the globe including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Spain and the United States.  

While technology now means that most reservations for accommodation are made online, council and tourism officials insist that the visitor centre still has an important role to play.

They say hotel and accommodation providers keep staff informed about any cancellations and vacancies that may arise, allowing them to advise visitors accordingly. 

In addition to providing information, the Newcastle centre also acts as a shopfront for the region’s many craft producers, helping local artisans and enriching the visitor experience. 

Over the past 25 years, the centre has won many awards, including the British Airways Tourism Information Centre of the year accolade and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board Reservations Award. 

The centre has also frequently been nominated for best tourist information centre in the Travel and Tourism Awards and has held the prestigious Charter Mark.