Visit Belfast expects city tourism growth to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2024
Year three of Rebuilding City Tourism Strategy set to deliver £120m to local economy
Visit Belfast, the destination marketing management organisation (DMMO) for the Belfast City Region, said today [Wednesday 26 April] its plans are on track to deliver around £120 million to the local economy this year through its sales, marketing and visitor servicing activity, marking a fresh growth milestone in the organisation’s almost 25-year history.
Established in 1999 as the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) – a year after the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Visit Belfast is a not-for-profit public, private and community partnership focused on driving city and regional tourism growth through business events, leisure breaks and cruise.
In an update to industry partners and stakeholders at St Colmgall’s, which recently opened after a £7.2 million restoration and transformation for community, cultural, business and tourism use, Visit Belfast outlined its plans for the final year of its three-year Rebuilding City Tourism 2021-24 strategy.
Speaking at the event, Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Christina Black, said: “Over recent years, every sector of our economy and society has felt the impact of a variety of factors beyond our control, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.
Yet, despite the challenges which presented in 2020, tourism IS recovering – thanks to the efforts and commitment of Visit Belfast working in partnership with Belfast City Council and the wider tourism industry.
Belfast City Council’s 10-year Tourism Strategy sets out an ambitious vision for the future of city tourism and we will continue to work collaboratively to achieve its potential across the key pillars; grow, position, experience and sustain.”
Last year, Visit Belfast’s combined marketing, visitor servicing and business development activities delivered an above-target £111 million for the local economy, which included welcoming 60 new conferences, 131 cruise ships with 250,000 visitors and handling 578,000 visitor enquiries. This year the city is set to welcome at least 79 major conferences and a record 170 ships will visit the city this year carrying 362,000 passengers and crew.
Visit Belfast Chair, Kathryn Thomson said: “City, regional and international tourism performance has progressed at a pace beyond expectations from Spring 2022 fuelled by pent up demand, staycation and VFR market and a record number of business events taking place in the city.
Since we launched our strategy in April 2021, we began the slow but steady path to recovery, illustrating a step change in our approach to our marketing and visitor servicing activity. Partnership is the central pillar of Visit Belfast, and by facing the challenges together we are succeeding in rebuilding tourism to Belfast and the wider city region.”
Visit Belfast will capitalise on several market opportunities in 2023, including a competitive value for money proposition in the key city-break markets of GB and ROI, favourable exchange rates, increasing air capacity from GB, Europe and North America and the reduction of APD by 50% (from GB).
Gerry Lennon, Visit Belfast Chief Executive, said: “Visit Belfast has set ambitious targets to continue the journey to full recovery. Our industry partnerships play a vital role in Belfast tourism success and through collaboratively working, Visit Belfast leverage opportunities to attract more visitors, increase tourism spend and cement the city’s credentials as a premier visitor destination. Working together, we’ve delivered great progress and we remain on track to achieve 2019 record levels.”
Naomi Waite, Director of Marketing at Tourism NI said: “Tourism Northern Ireland welcomes Visit Belfast’s ambitious plans for the year ahead. We are committed to working together with the wider tourism sector, delivering a co-ordinated and focused approach to tourism marketing and sales that maximises our contribution to the NI economy.
With recent and continued investment in attractions such as the re-imagined Titanic Belfast, the Titanic Distillers and the Game of Thrones Studio Tour, there are even more giant experiences for visitors to enjoy.”