On arrival the Royal Couple were greeted by Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, and Dr Howard Hastings, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
TRHs were introduced to a wide spectrum of guests involved in the Northern Ireland tourist industry. Tourism currently supports 43,000 jobs in Northern Ireland and attracts 4 million visitors and generates £683 million per annum. Its infrastructure incorporates a number of world-class assets unique to the Province, including Titanic Belfast; the Giant’s Causeway and Coastal Route; the St Patrick and Christian Heritage Trail; the Mountains of Mourne; and the Walled City of Londonderry. The industry’s contribution to Northern Ireland’s GDP increased from 4.9% in 2010 to 5.2% in 2013. Its ambition is to become a £1 billion industry, employing 50,000 people and welcoming 4.5 million visitors by 2020.
Throughout the evening guests were entertained by a range of local musicians, including James Patience playing the Harp, the Arco String Quartet, one of Northern Ireland’s leading professional and dynamic groups of musicians from The Ulster Orchestra who have performed all over the world. The Belfast City Gospel Choir added some real feel-good factor to the evening with their high energy performance of many gospel classics, as well as soul hits. And Ibuki Taiko showed how to combine elements of percussion with elements of theatre, dance and martial arts.