Blog : Public Relations

AMERCIAN HOLIDAYS INVESTS IN THE FUTURE OF ITS BELFAST BASE

AMERCIAN HOLIDAYS INVESTS IN THE FUTURE OF ITS BELFAST BASE

Northern Ireland’s US Travel Specialist, American Holidays opens the doors on its brand-new premises in Belfast City Centre, following a significant investment and a renewed strategy to grow its operations locally.

Whilst remaining in Lombard Street, American Holidays will now occupy the old Ulster Bank site that has lay vacant for several years. This new space will allow for the expansion of its retail shop and call centre for its trade partners, with a larger dedicated Belfast team in place to answer every call.

The new retail shop will be a relaxed and comfortable environment for both staff and customers. Planning a holiday to the USA can be daunting at times; therefore it is reassuring to speak directly with a specialist to receive expert advice – something American Holidays continues to see a demand for from customers.

Speaking on the continued success of American Holidays, Karen Sheals Hoy, Manager says: “We pride ourselves in offering a seamless and dedicated customer journey delivered through exceptional service. It is this passion shown by the team that resonates with our customers and gives them confidence in the services we offer. Today American Holidays has over 50 staff based in Belfast, Dublin and Leeds and we are proud to be part of the world’s largest collection of specialist travel brands.

“American Holidays has developed longstanding relationships across the industry, and we continue to forge new associations. American Holidays prides itself in having a dedicated team in place to negotiate and secure the best prices for our customers, so we can remain competitive in the marketplace.”

Starting as an independently owned company in Lombard Street 27 years ago, the business has gone from strength to strength. American Holidays opened its Belfast branch in 1991 and this new level of investment into the branch signals confidence in the local market and the continued demand for this specialist travel offering.

The larger premises will now allow for a new dedicated training room to be housed onsite, enabling American Holidays to host regular training sessions for their staff and the Northern Ireland Travel Trade with partnered airlines, hotels, destination team specialists and suppliers.

Karen says: “As specialists in our field we can share the expertise we have at our fingertips with those who support us and to better develop everyone’s knowledge, especially of the lesser known areas of the USA and Canada”.

Astrid Bell, Cruise Product Manager, Belfast and Dublin adds: “American Holidays’ biggest strength is our team. We know North America inside and out, upside and down and have a great heritage as a specialist North American Tour Operator. We go the extra mile and know that it’s often the little things that make a big difference. Our sales staff have collectively visited almost every state, so we have the USA and Canada covered.

“We understand the need to invest in education and training for our staff and work very closely with training partners to develop training programmes for all.”

American Holidays is part of Travelopia, the world’s largest collection of Specialist Travel Brands. It is always working to develop and grow new products to the USA & Canada – next year will be no different. 2020 will see a new 148-page North America brochure and a 100-page Escorted Touring brochure including Cruise and Canada. The new brochures will offer some new exciting experiences while also offering some old favourites. The new brochures will hit the shelves November 2019.

American Holidays is summed up in its tagline, Possibilities Unlimited!

END

GLENS COASTAL TOURISM INITIATIVE CREATES 58 NEW JOBS

GLENS COASTAL TOURISM INITIATIVE CREATES 58 NEW JOBS

Carrickfergus Enterprise has announced that results of its recent tourism initiative, ‘Glens Coastal Hub’ has exceeded expectations, boosting sales, local visitor expenditure, jobs, and visitor numbers.

Funded by the Coastal Communities Fund and following on from the huge success of its East Antrim Coastal Hub pilot in 2015, this new initiative has had a direct impact on the number of visitors and expenditure in the East Antrim Coastal Way route. Ambitious targets were in place from the outset, yet these have been surpassed significantly with the creation of 58 full time, part time and casual jobs and over 22,000 new visitors to the region, resulting in over £3million generated in additional expenditure.

The overall goal of the scheme was to develop the capacity and confidence of local businesses within the area, that are often considered the ‘hidden gems’ of the region but are not necessarily on the typical tourist routes.

The Glens Coastal Hub was devised to increase sales, enhance visitor experiences and fully take advantage of the huge opportunities’ tourism can offer for the local area. 30 businesses signed up to take part and avail of support services such as business mentoring, ICT support, WorldHost training, mystery shopping and a joint marketing campaign which included a visitor map and website.

Kelli Bagchus, Manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise, said: “The success of our East Antrim Coastal Hub and tourism map set the precedent for what could be achieved in the tourism sector within the area. It was therefore the right time to request further funding to create a larger spectrum of support. With the local interest high and the strong proposition already existing it made sense for us to build on this momentum.

“This programme has enabled us to showcase our diverse range of tourism attractions from across Ballygally to Ballycastle/Rathlin, that include the Ossian’s Grave, Layde Church, Dark Hedges Estate, the Ballygally Castle Hotel, Cranny Falls and Glenariff Forest Park; whilst empowering the businesses across these areas to capitalise on the buoyant tourism industry.

“With tourism at the fore of Northern Ireland’s economy, it is in our interest to support the lesser known locations, to keep history and heritage alive as well as helping the launch of new tourism businesses in the area.”

Speaking on his involvement in the programme, Gary O’Loughlin from Laragh Lodge said: “The programme has been really successful and has definitely brought us more business. We attended various workshops including social media training which was very helpful. The publicity from the programme put a spotlight on us and being located beside the Glenariff Waterfall has brought even more tourists to us.”

The project is funded by Coastal Communities Fund which is funded by the government with income from the Crown Estate Marine Assets. It is delivered by Big Lottery on behalf of the UK Government.

Sarah Daly, Funding Officer from The National Lottery Community Fund said: “We are delighted that Coastal Communities Fund has been able to support the Glens Coastal Hub Programme. It enables smaller businesses to develop their capacity, enabling them to capitalise on the growing tourism industry in Northern Ireland. It also helps to highlight what Northern Ireland has to offer beyond the major tourism sites. Thus, encouraging longer stays and contributing to and increased visitor spend.”

Carrickfergus Enterprise has created a successful model specialising in supporting tourism and hospitality businesses where it will seek opportunities to further support even more businesses to sustain and grow the future of this industry.

ENDS

JONZARA SECURES THE FUTURE OF ‘GERRY WEBER’ IN UK & IRELAND

JONZARA SECURES THE FUTURE OF ‘GERRY WEBER’ IN UK & IRELAND

Popular German fashion brand Gerry Weber announced last month it will close its UK store estate by October 2019, but have chosen to award its sole franchise in the UK and Ireland to local family business Jonzara.

Last year, Jonzara took over the Gerry Weber store in Newtownards and this announcement means it will continue to offer the popular brand to shoppers across the UK & Ireland. Since then the team has worked hard to grow demand for the Gerry Weber range via its online platform and store provision.

The independent retailer, which began trading in 2008, specialises in contemporary women’s clothing and remains steadfast despite the ongoing high street closures. Along with its Gerry Weber store, Jonzara has two stores in Newtownards and Lisburn. The business invested £150,000 in its 3300sq.ft Lisburn premises in 2017 with further development plans in the pipeline. It currently employs 26 local people across all three stores, with more recruitment underway.

Reflecting on Gerry Weber’s decision to cement its franchise contract with Jonzara, Director Jonathan McCann says:

“This is fantastic news and recognition of our proactive approach to growing Gerry Weber’s loyal customer base. Growth in store and online is equally matched. Now that we are going to be the sole Gerry Weber store in the UK and Ireland, this makes our offering even more exclusive for our customers.

“By showcasing a variety of designer brands in a range of sizes to suit any occasion and combining this with exceptional service, we have had the opportunity to grow.”

Director Sarah McCann adds: “We have seen a lot of additional growth online, not just for the Gerry Weber range. Our website exports Jonzara brands to over 50 countries worldwide including USA, Canada and Australia. The great news for our customers is that our online expansion has enabled us to offer an ever-increasing range of products both instore and online.”

Jonzara boasts an impressive array of designer labels and a selection of occasion wear and mother of the bride outfits appealing to the increase in demand for more formal attire as well as smart workwear.

EMPOWERING RETAILERS AND CONSUMERS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FOOD WASTE

EMPOWERING RETAILERS AND CONSUMERS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FOOD WASTE

Food waste is a huge issue and has recently been described as an “environmental, economic and moral scandal” by Ben Elliott[1].  Recent Northern Ireland figures shows that in total, Northern Ireland’s councils collected 230,942 tonnes of LAC municipal waste between October and December 2018.[2]

To put that number into perspective, this amounts to approximately £200m of food waste and 1.4m tonnes of greenhouse gases emissions.

It is these hard-hitting facts that has driven the vision behind Gander, the worlds first mobile app empowering consumers to reduce food waste and save money on their weekly food bill.

“Everyone loves bagging a bargain at the supermarket and reduced priced food is a great way to achieve this whilst still eating great food.  Gander displays reduced price food on an app all in real time meaning you can see what yellow stickered items are available in real time, saving money on your weekly shop.” Enthuses Ashley Osborne, one of the creators behind Gander.

“Environmentally, food waste is a crisis and is one of today’s growing issues with forecasts indicating a substantial increase by 2030 unless serious action is taken.  Worst still, a significant proportion of this waste is completely avoidable.  A yellow label doesn’t mean the food lacks the same great taste and versality when it comes to cooking family favourite dishes.

“For retailers reduced food can cost them up to 7% of their turnover.  At a time when margins are being squeezed, this is revenue sitting on their shelves and that customers locally would love to buy, they just don’t know it is there”,

Ashley Osborne, is one of the team members behind this world’s first mobile platform, developed to connect available reduced price, (often “yellow stickered”) food produce at your nearest retail store, in real-time.

During his time living and working in London, Ashley would finish work most days close to the closing time (unfortunately!) of his local food store.  At this hour, the shelves were awash with yellow stickers, and he knew, given that it was closing in a few minutes time, the food was most probably going to surplus or in the bin.

Despite this, it wasn’t until he came across a supplement in a National Paper discussing how food waste and its impact on the environment is set to be one of the leading man-made crises of the next 20 years.

At this stage the solution seemed obvious and this is when Gander was born!

Supermarkets and convenience stores were already reducing a vast array of food products, only issues was no one knew about it.  If this information was made more accessible online and to thousands more people surely it would mean more of this food was bought and less became surplus.  It was a win win for the retailer and the customer.

The idea seemed simple, the technology not so and some of the initial digital agencies Gander worked with pushed them down the route of something that involved manually uploading these items as they were stickered.  Whilst this solution looked good it was not real time and was not reliable.

It was back to the drawing board and further research was done.  All the time during this, the recognition of food waste and its environmental impact was becoming more and more mainstream.

It was a discussion with their now Chief Technology Officer and a forward-thinking EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) provider that they realised this solution was not just a possibility, it was achievable.  It required a clever system with several moving parts, which was subsequently built, and this is where Gander in its fully automated current guise was born.

Gander is unique for this industry and a world first in its category.  It displays reduced price food automatically.  This means there is absolutely no changes in-store, once integrated, Gander simply works.

Gander integrates with many Point of Sale (“POS”) systems (or other retailer data feeds) to push the reduced food products to the mobile app, usually when they are stickered in-store.  Similarly, when that item is sold it is automatically removed from the app, providing a real time feed of all reductions in-store at any time to the customers locally.

In addition, Gander has a detailed analytics platform, which gives retailers a 360-degree analysis of their reduction’s metrics and performance as well as interactions with their reductions.  Again, all in real time.

After reaching out to several EPOS providers with the view to integrating with their systems; Henderson’s Technology and EDGEPoS was one of the most progressive ones the Gander team had looked at.

The Henderson Group has a fantastic sustainability and CSR programme in place with a proactive focus on waste reduction. It is for this reason that the team chose to work with the group to launch Gander to market for the first time.

In addition to the partnership with the Henderson Group and its impressive technology offering, Northern Ireland became the launch pad for Gander particularly as Northern Ireland stores have a very large reliance on fresh food. A product especially date sensitive.  Gander’s proposition is completely different to anything on the market and the team is confident it will make a significant impact on supporting retailers and consumers alike in addressing food waste.

Gander is rolling out across the UK and ROI following the successful launch of the app in NI, to help drastically reduce waste at a National level.

See how the Gander app works here: http://bit.ly/2maYjoi

The Gander app can be downloaded now via the Apple or Android app stores – click here or just search ‘Gander’.

You can also follow @getgander on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/31/food-waste-chief-to-target-scandal-of-250m-binned-uk-meals

[2] https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/news/northern-ireland-local-authority-collected-municipal-waste-management-statistics-released-13

THE FIGHT AGAINST FOOD WASTE RAMPS UP WITH THE ARRIVAL OF GROUNDBREAKING NEW TECHNOLOGY DESIGNED TO SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE IT

THE FIGHT AGAINST FOOD WASTE RAMPS UP WITH THE ARRIVAL OF GROUNDBREAKING NEW TECHNOLOGY DESIGNED TO SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE IT

The world’s first real-time mobile app, developed to help food stores clear significantly more of its reduced to clear, often yellow labelled, food produce has launched in Northern Ireland.

In an industry first, Gander, a mobile platform that displays ‘reduced to clear’ food products, has partnered with Henderson Technology to bring this sustainable technology solution to life in stores supplied by the Henderson Group in Northern Ireland under the SPAR, EUROSPAR, ViVO and ViVOxtra brands.

Gander is unique for this industry as it displays reduced to clear food automatically and in real-time, with Henderson Technology’s award winning EDGEPoS System pushing the reduced food products to the mobile app, as they are stickered in-store.  Similarly, when that item is sold it is automatically removed from the app, providing an instant feed of all reductions in-store at any time making it simple and effective for the shopper.

Food waste is a huge issue and has recently been described as an “environmental, economic and moral scandal” by Ben Elliott[1].  Recent Northern Ireland figures shows that in total, Northern Ireland’s councils collected 230,942 tonnes of LAC (local authority collected) municipal waste between October and December 2018, similar to the 232,012 tonnes collected during the same three months of 2017.[2]

Speaking on the launch of Gander into Northern Ireland, Ashley Osbourne, Founder of Gander says: “We are delighted to be partnering with Henderson Technology in Northern Ireland, to introduce this new technology to market in an industry first. The Henderson Group has a fantastic sustainability and CSR programme in place with a proactive focus on waste reduction. Together through this partnership, we can take significant strides towards giving retailers and shoppers alike the ability to have a more sustainable and mindful approach to food shopping.

“Environmentally, food waste is a crisis and is one of today’s growing issues and it is forecast to increase substantially by 2030 unless serious action is taken.  Worst yet, a significant proportion of this waste is completely avoidable. However, for retailers reduced food can cost them up to 7% of their turnover.  At a time when margins are being squeezed, this is revenue sitting on their shelves and that shoppers locally would love to buy, they just don’t know it is there”.

Darren Nickels, Head of Henderson Technology says: “As an innovative and forward-thinking technology supplier, we are committing to helping all our retailers to reduce food waste alongside tackling the problem in our own stores. We are excited to have partnered with Gander to bring this unique initiative to life in an industry first. As part of the Henderson Group, we believe that initiatives like this will help us tackle the moral and environmental problems associated with avoidable food waste. We are delighted to be the first POS provider in the U.K. to offer this with our EDGEPoS system.

“Through the retail partners we work with both here in the UK and across the globe, we know that many of our customers feel strongly about addressing this issue and feel confident that by introducing the Gander app we will encourage shoppers to purchase in a smarter, more sustainable way while also enjoying some great savings.”

Ashley adds: “Only 5% of a retailers existing shoppers purchase reduced to clear food.  Gander puts this information in the hands of significantly more motivated shoppers which in turn will increase sales of reduced product.  For a retailer, this will increase revenue otherwise lost to waste, increase footfall and reduce waste.  For the shoppers it will provide them with the ability to avail of local bargains and save money, whilst allowing them to feel they are positively addressing the problem of food wastage.  A win, win!

“Shoppers love reductions and offers with 32% shopping for offers according to IGD Shoppervista research.  Furthermore, there is a movement from shoppers towards companies with an environmental focus with 72% of Gen Z’ers shopping in stores with a positive social and environmental impact according to Nielsen.”

The Gander app can be downloaded via the Apple or Android app stores and used to locate reduced items at your nearest SPAR, EUROSPAR, ViVO and ViVOxtra store.

Gander is rolling out across the UK and ROI following the successful launch of the app in NI, to help drastically reduce waste at a National level.

END

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/31/food-waste-chief-to-target-scandal-of-250m-binned-uk-meals

[2] https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/news/northern-ireland-local-authority-collected-municipal-waste-management-statistics-released-13

TIME FOR TEA AT WHITEHEAD RAILWAY MUSEUM

TIME FOR TEA AT WHITEHEAD RAILWAY MUSEUM

Whitehead Railway Museum is rolling out its cake-stands and best china for a new season of its popular Afternoon Tea after a sell-out year in 2018.

Having celebrated its most popular year with visitor numbers increasing by 50%, the award-winning Museum will welcome guests to step back in time and enjoy Afternoon Tea in a stationary historic railway carriage, located on the tracks within the Museum premises.

General Manager of Railway Preservation Society of Ireland Lisa Adair said: “We have had an extremely successful summer so far with speciality train rides, bespoke events, and our visitor numbers are continuing to rise. We were overwhelmed with the bookings we received for the Afternoon Tea last year and the start of this year so we know there is a big demand for this event. As we run a very busy summer schedule this offering finished in May, so we are really looking forward to kicking off our Autumn season and inviting people to experience the atmospheric carriage.

“Whitehead has always been a railway town and we want to make it a visitor spot that appeals to everyone, not just the railway enthusiast community, so having unique offerings such as Afternoon Tea brings visitors from near and far to the Museum.”

Operated by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI), the Museum also offers a gallery experience that weaves through the rich rail history of generations, from seaside trips to tales of smuggling butter across borders. Visitors can enjoy an array of steam and diesel locomotives plus heritage carriages, see work in progress in the restoration workshops, enjoy afternoon tea in the Edwardian Tea Room, and hear all about the social impact of the railways and Whitehead.

Bookings have now opened for this season’s Afternoon Tea and the first event takes place at Whitehead Railway Museum on Saturday 7th September. Book now via https://www.steamtrainsireland.com. Whitehead Railway Museum is open 10am to 4pm Thursday to Saturday, while the Edwardian Tea Room, which is admission-free, serves tea/coffee and freshly prepared lunches. Experienced RPSI members are on hand for conducted tours at 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm, with tours lasting just over an hour.

NEW HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS ® OPENS IN DERRY~LONDONDERRY

NEW HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS ® OPENS IN DERRY~LONDONDERRY

The new Holiday Inn Express ® Derry – Londonderry has opened its doors in the bustling city centre, creating the second largest hotel for the city. The £7million investment will generate 44 new jobs, enhancing employment and business opportunities for service providers in the region.  The major multifaceted development plan is set to boost the Strand Road area.

The hotel which boasts 119 modern bedrooms will offer competitive rates, lending to the thriving tourism in the city, as the increased visitor rates have helped to achieve record occupancy levels and welcomed thousands of visitors year on year. Holiday Inn Express has introduced Next Generation – an innovation developed to meet the needs of today’s Smart Traveler and suited to the idea of ‘express travel’. It’s excellent central location is just a short 5-minute walk to popular attractions such as the historic 17th Century Walls, the Peace Bridge and Guildhall, as well as a range of retail outlets and the city’s vibrant bars and restaurants.

The hotel offers an Express Start™ Breakfast included in the rate for all guests. In addition, super connected bedrooms offer appealing amenities such as Smart TVs, blackout blinds and a choice of pillows. The hotel has two meeting rooms ideal for small board meetings, interviews or brainstorming sessions.

Phase one of the development will focus on the opening of the hotel, with plans to add another 31 bedrooms by the end of the year.  Phase two will elevate the hotel offering by introducing a brand-new bar and restaurant, whilst phase three will bring the development of 25 self-catering apartments in 2020, ideal for corporate events or longer stays.

General Manager Stephen Redden said, “We are delighted to open the doors of Holiday Inn Express, adding a fresh and exciting dimension to the city’s accommodation offering. We are proud to generate 44 local jobs, whilst greatly adding to the continued growth of the destination. To be based in the heart of Derry-Londonderry, we are confident that we will be adding to the great vibrancy of Strand Road, complimenting the many emerging and existing businesses.”

Foyle Cup team members are amongst the first guests to stay at the hotel. The tournament hosted in the city in July is one of the largest youth soccer events in the country, attracting thousands of visitors. Holiday Inn Express will welcome Glenavon FC, Barnsley FC and Beann Mhádagháin FC providing a central location for the duration of the tournament.

The hotel is part of the IHG ® (Intercontinental Hotels Group), one of the world’s leading hotel companies representing 17 hotel brands with over 5,600 partner hotels worldwide. IHG® Rewards Club gives guests the opportunity to build loyalty points with every stay and avail of exclusive member benefits including discounted or free hotel stays at any IHG property worldwide, free airmiles and discounted brand name merchandise.

ENDS

CINEMA IS STILL A BLOCKBUSTER HIT IN IRELAND

CINEMA IS STILL A BLOCKBUSTER HIT IN IRELAND

2019 is proving once again to be a strong year for moviegoers with Omniplex Cinemas reporting that on average every person on the island of Ireland will visit the cinema 3.8 times per year*. This makes Ireland the highest cinema-going nation in Europe for four years running.

Omniplex Cinemas, one of Ireland’s largest cinema chains, has been leading the charge in making cinema more accessible, memorable and interactive. Currently with 15 cinemas located across the province to date which including 6 OmniplexMAXX screens & 13 OmniplexRecline screens.

Over the past 10 years, an average of 702 movies are released per year, with the most popular genre in Ireland being action movies. This has been reflected by the huge swell in numbers following the release of Avenger’s Endgame which has grossed to date £6.4M at the box office**. Other popular genres in Ireland are comedy and animation.

However, Irish cinema-goers have a diverse taste, with a strong affinity towards musicals & music based movies. In 2018, Ireland was the only country in Europe to have two music-based films in their top two movie slots at the end of the year – Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! and A Star is Born***.

Speaking on the demand of cinema across the Island of Ireland, Paul John Anderson, Director of Omniplex Group (NI) says: “I am delighted to see the continued growth and demand for cinema across Ireland. There is still a lot of nostalgia associated with going out to the cinema, grabbing your popcorn, socialising with friends and being fully absorbed by a narrative, away from the distractions of everyday life.”

Recognising this steady evolution of cinema, Ominplex Cinemas is now introducing its MyOmniPass – a monthly subscription scheme allowing customers to ‘See It All’. The monthly subscription includes a range of benefits including one ticket to every standard movie, 10% off your cinema treats, 10% off extra tickets online for your friends, free upgrades of MyOmniPass tickets to MAXX & Recline show, and exclusive screenings just for its members.

Commenting on this new subscription service, Paul explains: “A lot of customers have asked about a subscription service at Omniplex, and it’s taken us a little while to find the best solution. Two key elements of our service is that it’s all based on e-cards so once you have a smartphone you always have access to your card. And secondly, we’ve based the service on getting one ticket to every standard movie we’re showing, with an average of 702 movies released per year over the past 10 years we really want to give our customers a chance to see it all.

“2019 has already been a massive year for cinema and the upcoming releases of major films like Spider-Man far From Home, IT: Chapter 2 and Star Wars is set to continue this trend, making our MyOmnipass the perfect option for avid moviegoers.”

For more information on MyOmniPass and to register visit: https://www.omniplex.ie/myomni/

STEAM SATURDAYS ROLL IN TO WHITEHEAD TO KICK OFF THE SUMMER SEASON

STEAM SATURDAYS ROLL IN TO WHITEHEAD TO KICK OFF THE SUMMER SEASON

Whitehead Railway Museum is pleased to announce the commencement of their Steam Saturdays at the Excursion Station. The return of the steam train rides marks the start of what is expected to be the award-winning museum’s most successful year. 2018 was recorded as the busiest year for the unique tourist attraction, as it welcomed visitors from across the globe, including America, Australia and Europe and the numbers are set to continue.

A steam engine built 100 years ago which celebrated its centenary this year, will be the star of the show this summer. No. 3BG Guinness, which worked at the famous Dublin brewery for 45 years before being presented to the RPSI, will be providing steam train rides as part of the Whitehead Railway Museum’s Summer Steam season.

The steam train rides stir the senses as you step on board a traditional steam train. Visitors will have the chance to see The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) footplate crew at work, shovelling coal into the firebox and preparing the engine for each of its runs.

RPSI General Manager Lisa Adair said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this extra attraction at Whitehead Railway Museum over the summer months. The steam train ride is always very popular for our visitors young and old as the sound, smell and sight of the locomotive creates a magical atmosphere. We have a really exciting programme of events coming up over the summer including our Afternoon Tea and Steam & Jazz events and we would be delighted to welcome visits, old and new to experience all that we have to offer.”

The train rides will operate this Saturday 25th May, Saturday 29th June and every Saturday in July and August from 12 midday to 4pm, departing from Whitehead Railway Museum platform every 15 minutes.

There is also the chance to visit the award-winning Whitehead Railway Museum which is open from 10am to 4pm, Thursday to Saturday and guided tours are at 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm. Later in the summer, the Museum will also open on Sundays.

Tickets for the steam train rides can be purchased on the day and are priced at £2 for children and £2.50 for adults. For further details about Whitehead Railway Museum opening times and the steam train rides, visit www.steamtrainsireland.com.

CAN NEW INNOVATIONS IN ULTRA-LOW ENERGY HOUSING TACKLE FUEL POVERTY?

CAN NEW INNOVATIONS IN ULTRA-LOW ENERGY HOUSING TACKLE FUEL POVERTY?

This is the question being addressed at the inaugural Passive House Association of Ireland Conference, taking place in Belfast on Friday 10th May. The conference, supported by The Royal Society of Ulster Architects and Kingspan Insulation, has been developed to debate, challenge and address how the industry in NI needs to move forward and embrace new ways of tackling fuel poverty.

The 2016 Northern Ireland House Condition survey showed that 22% of households were living in fuel poverty in Northern Ireland; the private rented sector is the worst affected by fuel poverty with most recent figures at 26.3%; and in 2017-18 there were 1,500 excess winter deaths with 30% attributable to living in a cold home. In addition, 68% of households in Northern Ireland are reliant on home heating oil; an unregulated fuel in terms of price and customer protection.

Panellists and attendees will be privy to the latest research and development in the field, and there will be the opportunity for much lively conversation – with focus given to retrofit and new build housing.

The conference will have an esteemed panel of industry experts leading the discussions which includes: Director of Fuel Poverty Coalition NI, Pat Austin; County Architect for Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown County Council, Andrée Dargan; Dr. Shane Colclough from University of Ulster; Green Party NI Leader, Claire Bailey; Caroline Best Project Architect at the Northern Ireland Housing Executive; Managing Director of Mosart & Passive House Academy, Tomas O’Leary; and Chair of PHAB Group and GP Developments, Garrett Quinn.

The conference keynote speaker will be the Housing Development Manager for Exeter City Council, Emma Osmundsen who will be discussing her council’s policy and successes in social housing by implementing low energy, healthy and climate resilient buildings.

Speaking about the upcoming event, Paul McAlister, Chairman of the PHAI, said, “This is a discussion which is long overdue, and we are delighted with the positive response from across the political and civic spectrum to our first ever conference tackling this issue.

“Fuel poverty affects thousands of households in Northern Ireland and decisive action is needed. The main issue is that there is a lack of understanding of the benefits of low energy housing and a perception that it is more costly to implement this approach; which is not correct. We believe that this conference marks an important first step in addressing the problem, and we hope that it will motivate our business and community leaders to embrace and be more open to recognising the potential of ultra-low energy housing.”

Tickets for the conference are currently available via http://bit.ly/PHAIBelConf2019 priced at £55pp general admission and £45pp for PHAI members.

ENDS