Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Rush of requests as Titanic staircase Sundays launched

Survivors of the Titanic disaster in a crowded lifeboat.

Titanic Belfast has received an overwhelming demand for tickets to view its replica of the ship’s Grand Staircase — leaving some keen visitors out of luck.

The centre has been forced to allow limited access to the building’s staircase after a controversial decision not to include it in tours of the landmark tourism hub.

The oak staircase has been at the centre of a row after it emerged it would only be open to corporate guests attending a function in the banqueting suite.

Critics of the policy have likened it to the class system on the Belfast-built ship.

In a bid to quell public anger, Titanic Belfast has organised two ‘Staircase Sunday’ events to take place in May to allow 2,000 visitors access to the iconic stairs.

But it has been inundated with requests for the events and has had to turn away many applications due to the high demand.

On the centre’s Facebook page, those that had tried and failed vented their frustrations.

One wrote: “My emails just bounced back. So disappointed.”

Another said: “I haven’t heard yet and I’m also a victim of bounce back email that didn’t work! I’ve proved it to them yet my request remains unanswered.”

Titanic Belfast had told the public on its Facebook page that it was “currently working through a high volume of applications for ‘Staircase Sunday’ events on May 13 and May 20. All time slots have now been allocated.”

Earlier this month, Tourism Minister Arlene Foster told the Belfast Telegraph that Titanic Belfast bosses needed to find a way to accommodate visitors wanting to see the Grand Staircase.

She said the row over access was taking away from the impact of the whole centre.

“As far as I’m concerned it was becoming a distraction,” she added.

“It might mean more staff and health and safety but still we need to accommodate visitors.”

Titanic Belfast refused to disclose how many people were left without tickets to the staircase events and why some emails were not received.

Earlier this month JLS frontman Marvin Humes and fiancee Rochelle Wiseman from The Saturdays were pictured on the stairs - sparking a public backlash.

The Belfast Telegraph asked the tourism attraction how many people were left without tickets to the staircase events and why some emails were not received, but it did not directly answer the questions.

It issued a statement saying: “While there has been significant interest in access to the Grand Staircase, the need to balance both leisure and business tourism at Titanic Belfast is vital. It is not possible to view the staircase when an internal/external event is either being held or being set up in the Titanic Suites.

“For this reason, we have identified two clear late afternoon/evenings in May in which the suites are not in use and as a result have been able to provide 2,000 people with the opportunity to view and photograph the staircase. There are many operational challenges regarding staircase access and in this context we are currently considering a number of options going forward.”

Background

The general public visiting Titanic Belfast since its opening on March 31 have so far been unable to see the oak stairway — a replica of the one on the ill-fated ship.

The building’s architect and one of those behind its design have also called Titanic Belfast’s policy into question.

Earlier this month the centre announced its intention to hold ‘Staircase Sundays’ allowing the public to apply for limited free tickets to see the staircase. So far, only two dates have been announced.

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