'A million' hotel rooms booked in Belfast last year
Almost one million hotel rooms were booked in Belfast last year, new tourism figures have shown.
The total sales represented a 14% increase on the previous 12 months, with an accompanying 18% rise in revenue generated by the hoteliers, according to research commissioned by the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB).
Last year saw the city stage a number of high-profile events, including those linked to the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Belfast-built Titanic, and the data suggests these had a positive impact on tourist numbers.
The study carried out by STR Global on behalf of BVCB found that average hotel occupancy was up to 74% from 66% in 2011, peaking at 89% during the summer.
Welcoming the figures, BVCB insisted its work had been responsible for securing many of the tourist bed nights.
Factoring in its role in attracting day trips, conference events and cruise liners locally, the city council-backed organisation claimed its combined sales and marketing activities had contributed £60 million to the local economy in 2012.
The bureau pledged to generate further success this year and set more ambitious targets.
With the city's reputation having been damaged during the recent Union flag controversy, hoteliers will be hoping this summer's World Police and Fire Games can deliver a boost to sales.
Lord Mayor of Belfast Gavin Robinson praised BVCB's work in 2012.
"BVCB has proven to be a real success story in developing tourism in Belfast and the image and reputation of the city has been transformed in the 14 years since it was created by Belfast City Council," he said.
"It is a first class example of one of the city's most successful public-private partnerships, with a proven track record in delivering the city's tourism, marketing, sales and visitor services.
"BVCB has made much of the positive opportunities and the significant investments made in a city.
"Visitor numbers continue to grow and I'm confident of further growth in the year ahead.
"Tourism has become one of Belfast's key economic drivers, and Belfast City Council has recognised its importance through its investment programme and we can all look forward to further exciting developments as we continue to promote the city as a must see tourist destination."
Gerry Lennon, chief executive of BVCB, added: "From a tourism perspective, Belfast is in a strong position to grow further in 2013 and we have much to look forward to.
"Our aim is to ensure that Belfast performs well in the competition for local and international visitors and that tourism continues to deliver local growth while sustaining and creating new jobs."