John McGrillen, Chief Executive, Tourism Northern Ireland, Howard Hastings, Chair of Visit Belfast, Gerry Lennon, Visit Belfast’s Chief Executive and Terrence Brannigan, Chair of Tourism Northern Ireland.
Visit Belfast has said its plans for the year ahead will deliver new and sustained tourism growth across the city, lift visitor numbers to new highs and seal a fresh multi-million payback for the economy.
Unveiling a brand new annual plan of action which will help it to contribute to the Northern Ireland-wide pledge to create a £1 billion tourism industry by 2020, Visit Belfast also pledged to build on its record-breaking 2016.
In the year to end-March, Visit Belfast’s bid to drive tourism success across three key areas – business and leisure tourism, and visitor servicing – generated an above-target £122 million for the city’s economy, 25 percent over last year and an all-time high for Belfast.
With almost 80 new conference wins seized for the city, 12 city-break campaigns deployed in its key markets of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and Europe, 88 cruise ships carrying 150,000 passengers and crew secured and over 750,000 visitor enquiries taken care of, Visit Belfast said it was determined to help create new milestones for the year ahead.
At a major tourism industry event attended by key stakeholders, partners and funders, Visit Belfast chair and Managing Director of Hastings Hotels, Howard Hastings said:
“Visit Belfast’s plans are quite rightly ambitious and with the support of our industry partners, we believe that we can achieve them.
“Tourism is a key pillar in Belfast’s developing economy and a mainstay for its success in many areas. Strategic spending on our tourism infrastructure has helped the city to flourish and grow, generating wealth and further investment while sustaining jobs and adding many more.
“Our tourism product is also increasingly attractive. We’re competing well and that success is recognised internationally. Belfast is currently the UK’s best city-break destination and through Titanic Belfast we’re home to the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction.
“Visit Belfast’s success is down to our partnership approach which energetically connects the public and private sectors, providing support for the private industry and real, tangible value for money for tax and ratepayers.”
Detailing its operational plans for 2017-18 which form part of its strategy to deliver 1.4m bednights, 680,000 cruise visitors, three million visitor enquiries and more than £390 million to the local economy between 2016 and 2020, Visit Belfast’s strategy focuses on securing a greater balance in business and leisure sectors, increasing visitor numbers overall and encouraging them to spend more.
Visit Belfast Chief Executive Gerry Lennon also pledged new growth across both the business and leisure tourism areas this year, generating 340,000 hotel bednights.
In the key visitor servicing area, and through its network of tourist information centres, Visit Belfast expects to handle more than 800,000 tourist enquiries.
Gerry Lennon said:
“Belfast, as well as being the gateway to Northern Ireland for visitors, has now established itself as the engine room of the Northern Ireland tourism economy, generating up to half of all visitor trips, guest accommodation arrivals and up to half of all tourism spend.
“Growing visitor numbers continues to drive greater confidence in tourism investment, helping to drive more than £1 billion in infrastructure development across the city which includes new hotels, world class visitor attractions and an increasing number of inbound air access opportunities.