The endorsement of Derry~Londonderry as the first UK WorldHost City was held in the Guildhall and was received by Mayor of Derry, Cllr Martin Reilly.
Speaking at the event Minster Farry said: “I am pleased to be here to celebrate the award of Derry as a WorldHost City and the first city in the UK to receive this major accolade. The WorldHost Customer Service programme has made a considerable contribution to ensuring all the visitors to the city had a wonderful experience and encouraging them to return to experience the hospitality and welcome from the city and its people.
'WorldHost has proven to be extremely successful across Northern Ireland with my Department’s Skills Solutions Service having funded over 7,000 individuals to receive the training, with 4,000 of those based in Derry. Today I would like to take the opportunity to announce that my Department will continue to fund WorldHost training for a further three years up to 2017.
'The tourism and hospitality sector is extremely challenging. It plays an important role in the economic well-being of Northern Ireland, which is why I have made it a priority sector for development. In order to grow our local economy, I would encourage employers to recognise the importance of up-skilling and re-skilling their staff and staff to seize the opportunity to add to their skills base through programmes such as WorldHost.'
WorldHost is an internationally recognised customer service qualification that sector skills council, People 1st, runs in partnership with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB). WorldHost City status is achieved when 25% of all businesses regarded as customer facing within the tourism, hospitality, leisure, passenger transport and retail sectors have at least 50% of their staff trained and achieve Business Recognition.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: 'The increased levels of customer service engendered by the WorldHost programme have been crucial to enhancing the overall Northern Ireland visitor experience. The standards set played a vital part into the success of the UK City of Culture and the north west will undoubtedly reap the benefits of repeat visits in 2014 and beyond. Londonderry’s dedication and innovation in customer care has certainly raised the bar for the rest of Northern Ireland and I would encourage our other destinations to follow their example.'
Mayor Cllr Martin Reilly recognising the achievements of those involved said: 'We should be immensely proud of this accolade; being the first UK City of Culture in 2013 it is extremely fitting as we deliver our Legacy plan that we now have been awarded a further accolade as first UK WorldHost city in 2014. Thanks must go to the determination of the local businesses who have embraced the unique programme and whose commitment to offering high standards of customer care have been awarded by receipt, of not only an industry recognised qualification, but the knowledge that they reached this achievement in developing the city as a world class destination.'
Roisin McKee, Director of Northern Ireland for People 1st, said that the achievement was testament to the extraordinary commitment that Northern Ireland businesses have shown to making sure they provide visitors with a warm welcome: 'Northern Ireland has truly embraced the WorldHost message and Derry~Londonderry is leading the way. Becoming a WorldHost Recognised Destination is a fantastic achievement and it’s encouraging to see so many Derry-Londonderry businesses willing to go the extra mile for their customers. This is a wonderful legacy of the Derry~Londonderry’s year as UK City of Culture and I have no doubt that it will have a positive impact on tourism to the city. Congratulations to everyone involved in the recognition effort.'
People 1st and the NITB launched the WorldHost programme in 2012 and it is funded through the Department for Employment and Learning. Further information on the WorldHost programme is available at: www.worldhostni.com.
The Department for Employment and Learning recently launched a ‘Skills to Succeed’ campaign which highlights the importance of skills and qualifications for individuals, employers and the economy. The campaign encourages individuals and employers seeking to develop their own skills and those of their workforce to find out what programmes and assistance is available, such as WorldHost, by visiting www.worldhostni.com. or by calling 0300 200 7876.