Derry’s Maritime Festival has been named as the best tourism event in the north-west at a special awards ceremony.
Derry City and Strabane District Council notched up a further award at the recently held North West Business Awards at the Everglades Hotel for its 2016 Festival.
The Maritime Festival took place over nine days in the city, in July 2016.
Two Council festivals had been nominated under the ‘Best Tourism Event or Initiative’ category at the awards - the Foyle Maritime Festival and Year of Food and Drink Festival.
The Foyle Maritime Festival clinched the top spot, having been praised for developing the visitor and tourism economy of the North West.
The festival, which attracted thousands of people to the banks of the River Foyle, had previously won the Best Event/Festival Experience title at the prestigious 2015 Northern Ireland Tourism NITA Awards for its 2014 festival.
Mayor Hilary McClintock said: “Who could ever forget the atmosphere throughout the city and district last July as we welcomed the international Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race crew to the city and saw our riverfront transformed with music, food and market stalls over the nine days of the festival?
“A lot of planning and hard work had gone into the events and set up. Council staff, our volunteers, local business, residents and the Clipper Race crew and supporters should all celebrate this award as it is thanks to you that we are able to bring such events to the city and district.”
She added: “The bi-annual festival has enabled Council to work with key stakeholders to drive the visitor and tourism economy of the North West forward.
“Built around the Clipper Race stopover, it attracted a record footfall of 163,576 attendees with international visitors accounting for as much as thirty per cent of those who visited the city, a wonderful achievement for us all. My congratulations to all involved.”
Over 22,096 bed nights were purchased during the festival, establishing July 2016 as the best performing month for room sales ever recorded in the city. Evaluations reported a record-breaking £3.5 million boost to the local economy during the festival with an average return on investment of £2.36 for every £1 invested by Derry City and Strabane District Council and their festival partners.
Helena Hasson, Council Clipper Race Project Officer, added: “The Clipper Race ‘LegenDerry’ stopover reached iconic status in 2015-16.
“The international crews have spoken widely about the Derry~Londonderry stopover, deeming it one of most anticipated host ports in the entire race across the world, so much so that Leg 8 of the race which included the Foyle port was one of the first to sell out.”
Clipper Race CEO William Ward meanwhile said: “It was such a fantastic event and I’m pleased to confirm that plans are currently underway for the July 2018 Foyle Maritime Festival, when the city will act as a host port in the Clipper Race for the fourth consecutive time.”