Visit Belfast, the Belfast City Region’s destination management and marketing organisation, has raised its growth target for 2022, promising an economic return for Belfast of £97m for the year, after the pandemic period.

Belfast’s tourism sector in Northern Ireland expects to enjoy strong growth in 2022, buoyed by a steady and sustained rise in consumer and business optimism from the city’s key tourism sectors – business events, city breaks and cruises – according to the city region’s destination management and marketing organisation, Visit Belfast.

The agency recently presented its marketing plans to more than 150 industry partners and stakeholders at visitor attraction Titanic Belfast – its largest gathering in over two years. Visit Belfast said its strategy going forward will be to drive Belfast’s tourism recovery, supporting partner businesses and converting visitor interest in the city to visits through focussed target marketing, sales and visitor servicing.

Visit Belfast embarked on its three-year tourism recovery plan, Rebuilding City Tourism, early last year with the aim to rebuild Belfast’s tourism economy to above pre-pandemic levels by 2025, delivering a forecasted £150 million economic return, up from £135 million in 2019.

Visit Belfast Chair Kathryn Thomson said that after a difficult two years, and despite the challenges ahead, there are many reasons for optimism.

“Tourism plays a pivotal part in Belfast’s social and economic life and is key to the city’s well-being, regeneration and development as it continues to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite current challenges, Visit Belfast remains optimistic that Belfast’s resilient tourism sector will continue to move towards full recovery“, said Thomson during her presentation.

“Showcasing Belfast’s unique and authentic tourism experiences to audiences across Great Britain, Ireland and beyond will enable us to compete effectively and grow, position and sustain city tourism,” she added.

Cruise and MICE sectors are thriving

Visit Belfast plans aim to attract 144 cruise visits with an estimated 345,000 cruise visitors as part of its Cruise Belfast partnership with Belfast Harbour – adding to the city’s international arrivals. In 2018, Belfast port recorded 146 cruise ships with 275,923 visitors generating an economic value of £13m.

It is also targeting a significant number of major business events with the aim of generating £40 million in economic value and attracting up to 30,000 delegates, adding to the 118 event bookings already secured and worth an estimated £79m for Belfast over the next few years.

Marketing activity will play a key role in Visit Belfast’s plans with an increased focus on digital campaigns and online content in order to support its sales activity and attract new and repeat local, national and international visitors, generating 150,000 bed nights and 100,000 day trips during 2022-23.

Belfast remains an attractive destination for neighbouring markets

Titanic museum (Photographer/Creator: Aidan Monaghan)

Gerry Lennon, Visit Belfast’s Chief Executive, highlighted that, “2021 continued be a particularly challenging one for the city. However, through a dynamic and collaborative partnership approach, and agile marketing, Visit Belfast contributed to the recovery of visitor numbers from our key closer-to-home markets of Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, while continuing to reach out to international markets to keep Belfast front-of-mind for future visits.

“The Belfast City Region is well placed to recover given the strength of our tourism and cultural offer alongside a wealth of visitor experiences including world class attractions, award-winning hospitality and food and a vibrant music scene,” he added.

“Our industry has a track record for its resilience and determination to succeed against the odds. I’m therefore confident that the outlook for the year ahead is positive and Visit Belfast will play a key role in ensuring city tourism returns to the record levels enjoyed in 2019,” concluded Lennon.

In the last available annual review looking at 2018/2019, Belfast recorded 663,794 bed nights and a total of 1.7m overnight trips. This generated £395m to the local economy.

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