VisitBelfast has said that its plans for the year ahead to deliver new and sustained tourism growth across the city, lifting visitor numbers to new highs and securing a boost to the economy.
Unveiling a new annual plan of action that will help it to contribute to the Northern Ireland-wide pledge to create a £1bn tourism industry by 2020, Visit Belfast also pledged to build on its record-breaking 2016.
In the year to end-March, VisitBelfast’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% more than 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: “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.
“Belfast is currently the UK’s best city-break destination and through Titanic Belfast we’re home to the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction.
Detailing its operational plans for 2017-18 which forms part of its strategy to deliver 1.4m bed nights, 680,000 cruise visitors, three million visitor enquiries and more than £390m 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 bed nights.
In the key visitor servicing area, and through its network of tourist information centres, VisitBelfast expects to handle more than 800,000 tourist enquiries.
Lennon said: “Growing visitor numbers continues to drive greater confidence in tourism investment, helping to drive more than £1bn in infrastructure development across the city which includes new hotels, world class visitor attractions and an increasing number of inbound air access opportunities.
“Tourism generates wealth, jobs and exports and, above all, a proud Belfast which sits comfortably on the global tourism stage.”