Chair of Tourism NI, Terence Brannigan has praised collaborations like Cycle Sperrins for putting the area in the sights of international adventure travellers.
Speaking at the launch of the tourism led initiative, which involves a group of small businesses in the Sperrins area, he said the cluster is key to supporting the region’s global agenda.
Brought together by Far and Wild, the adventure company behind Cycle Sperrins, the consortium provides bike hire and guides for the 160km multi-day cycle route.
Speciality food producers, farm businesses, tearooms and quality accommodation have joined together on the project.
“It often takes a combination of vision, enthusiasm and commitment to get things done in tourism – I can see this in abundance here from many individuals and organisations,” he said. “The fact that the Cycle Sperrins project has come to fruition so proficiently highlights the importance of the consortium approach and goes to show that working in partnership and with stakeholders yields positive results.
“I really like the key idea behind Cycle Sperrins which is that each business passes on customers to the next point along the route. And that’s because tourism is everyone’s business. We are all in tourism together, and, the more we work together, the more we will prosper together.”
Mr Brannigan said activity tourism, of which cycling and mountain biking is part, is estimated to be worth around £100million to the Northern Ireland economy.
He said: “Cycling is also a key part of Tourism NI’s product development strategy, which over the past couple of years, has included investments of over £2.2 million in projects for mountain biking trails, off-road cycling, multi-use cycling and walking trails.
“The local knowledge from each operator in the Cycle Sperrins will encourage visiting cyclists to encounter the local people and experience the many flavours and hidden gems they might miss if they go it alone.
“We will always want and need initiatives like this - initiatives which let visitors experience the welcome, taste the food, enjoy the company and get out on their bikes to explore the history and myth of the Sperrins hills,” he added.
Lawrence McBride, of Far and Wild, said: “Cycle Sperrins is really a wonderful cycling route that takes in the length and breadth of the Sperrins, and that gets you into the true heart of the countryside.”