Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

807,000 visitors to Titanic centre

Survivors of the Titanic disaster in a crowded lifeboat.
Survivors of the Titanic disaster are greeted by their relatives upon their safe return to Southampton.
Front page of Belfast Telegraph

Record visitor numbers for the Titanic Belfast centre have proven the sceptics wrong, it has been claimed.

The Northern Ireland Audit Office initially cast doubt over the long-term financial viability of the £97 million building overlooking the dock where the RMS Titanic was built.

It was revealed more than 800,000 people from 128 countries visited the building.

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness attended an event marking a year since its opening.

Mr McGuinness said: "This building has done everything the cynics and sceptics said it could not do. It has been an enormous success."

RMS Titanic sank in April 1912 after striking an iceberg in the northern Atlantic, with more than 1,500 lives lost.

Titanic Belfast opened on the centenary of the sinking, after the audit office predicted it would need 290,000 visitors a year to break even.

In 2011 the watchdog said it was doubtful whether the centre would break even in the long term, while accepting the attraction would be initially popular. Auditors warned the building was likely to be more expensive per visitor than some of the world's leading tourist attractions, such as Disneyland Paris.

According to the centre management, 807,340 people visited during the year - 471,702 from outside Northern Ireland. The direct economic benefit through tourism expenditure totalled £54.3 million.

Northern Ireland Tourist Board chairman Howard Hastings said: "It seems a distant memory now, but it is only 18 months since the Northern Ireland Audit Office was casting doubt over whether Titanic Belfast would make its projected break-even figure of 290,000 visitors."

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