Key business event organisers, travel trade operators and tourism media were given a unique chance to experience Belfast right in the heart of London after Visit Belfast presented a major city showcase event that brought Belfast to life using new augmented reality (AR) technology.
Working in partnership with Tourism Ireland and local tourism businesses, the city’s tourism marketing agency brought over 75 top buyers together to see and hear first-hand Belfast’s compelling offer for conferences, events and group travel in 2019.
The largest targeted event of its kind organised by Visit Belfast outside of Northern Ireland, attendees included big brand online travel agents Expedia, global tour operators Miki Travel, event-organising “super agencies” including Banks Sadler and BCD as well as representatives from some of the UK’s leading professional associations.
Two specially-designed immersive AR experiences took guests holding hand-held tablets on a guided tour around Belfast, showcasing its colourful street art, including political murals and peace walls, and contemporary street art in the Cathedral Quarter. Then, going back in time, guests were taken to the Harland and Wolff shipyard to learn about the city’s rich maritime heritage.
Guests were also delighted to be part of a special preview of the brand new GAME OF THRONES™: THE TOURING EXHIBITION which will run from April this year in the TEC Belfast. Costumes worn by Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) through season 4 – 7, were on display courtesy of TBL International.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Deirdre Hargey, said: “Belfast is moving forward at an unprecedented rate – a city bursting with energy, ambition and renewed optimism. The growing confidence and associated investment across the city’s tourism infrastructure is paying huge dividends in the ever-increasing numbers of tourists choosing to visit – whether that’s for a short break, a business event, or on a cruise ship.
“This event was a fantastic opportunity to tell this important and influential audience the stories that not only reflect Belfast’s heritage and culture but its dynamism and creativity today – from GAME OF THRONES® and the flourishing film industry to world-class food and hospitality, musical talent and much more.”
Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast, added: “Tourism in Belfast has gone from strength to strength in recent years, now attracting 1.5 million overnight trips each year, with the GB market accounting for 42% of visitors. The record turnout in terms of travel trade and events buyers at last night’s event reflects the growing confidence there is in choosing Belfast for an event or conference or including Belfast as part of a leisure itinerary or excursion.
“It’s important that Belfast is seen as a smart and innovative modern city destination alongside its rich culture and history. It is this combination that is the city’s unique selling proposition, relevant to conference organisers and the travel trade, which is why it was particularly exciting to utilise augmented reality to deliver experiential marketing as part of our destination showcase.”
Julie Wakley, Tourism Ireland’s Head of Great Britain, said: “Tourism Ireland was delighted to support Visit Belfast in showcasing Belfast in London to an audience of influential event organisers, travel trade and media.
“2019 presents Belfast and Northern Ireland with a big opportunity to grab the attention of the world through sport, TV and film. The airing of the eighth and final series of the award-winning HBO® blockbuster, GAME OF THRONES, the new touring exhibition in TEC Belfast and the hosting of The 148th Open at Royal Portrush will ensure that Northern Ireland is ‘front of mind’ for prospective GB visitors.
Tourism Ireland will be pulling out all the stops to leverage these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – here in GB and elsewhere around the world.”