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Don’t call off trips, tour chiefs tell visitors

By Patrice Dougan

Tour operators have spent the last 24 hours reassuring tourists not to cancel trips to Northern Ireland in the wake of violent sectarian clashes in Belfast.

After images of rioting in east Belfast were beamed around the world since fighting broke out on Monday night, organisers have been trying to undo the negative publicity it has caused.

Tourists worried about visiting have been reassured that the violence in confined to a small area and that they are in no danger.

Susie Millar, who runs Titanic Tours Belfast, said she spent yesterday morning telling clients that Belfast was safe to visit.

And with a cruise ship due into Belfast port today, she said “the worry is people will just sit on board and not go and see the city”.

“Three weeks ago we had the Titanic launch centenary on the slipway with media there from over 40 different countries, such a positive image,” she said.

“And then Rory McIlroy and his win, that’s such a positive PR gift for us as a region — and within a very short space of time we’re faced with these pictures going worldwide and we’re having to counteract that.

“The good work that was done is just wiped out by a few people.”

She said images of a masked man throwing a petrol bomb in front of a mural commemorating the Titanic “sends out thewrong message” and could lead people to assume the violence “is happening in the midst of all the new developments in the Titanic Quarter”, a popular spot for tourists.

She said she had been telephoning clients who had emailed her inquiring about cancelling their bookings because of the violence which has occurred in the city over the last couple of days.

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