Belfast Telegraph

Time to show our best face as world comes calling on us

By Chris Kilpatrick

The UK City of Culture title’s arrival will kick-start what promises to be a huge year for Northern Ireland.

The bestowment of the accolade on Londonderry — the inaugural UK venue — is just one of the huge attractions which will showcase the province to the world over the next 12 months.

Work is already well under way ahead of two major events which will put Northern Ireland firmly under the international spotlight.

In June eight of the most influential leaders in the world will converge on the Lough Erne Golf Resort near Enniskillen for the G8 Summit.

US President Barack Obama will join the leaders of France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada as well as UK Prime Minister David Cameron for the event from June 17-18, which focuses on the world economy.

Speaking at the announcement of the staging of G8 here, Mr Cameron said: “I want the world to see just what a fantastic place Northern Ireland is.”

Despite the huge costs of hosting a world-scale event, it is thought the economic spin-offs could top £100m, with Northern Ireland reaping the benefits for years to come.

“The world's leaders are going to be here next year debating the issues that are vital to the future of our world, vital to the future of Northern Ireland and seeing this brilliant, beautiful part of the UK,” Mr Cameron added.

“And seeing it's also open for business, great for investment and fantastic at training skilled workers ready to take on the world.”

In August more than 25,000 visitors are expected in Northern Ireland for the World Police and Fire Games. The Games is the third largest multi-sports event in the world and will be hosted in Belfast from August 1-10.

An anticipated 10,000 athletes accompanied by an additional 15,000 supporters are expected to travel here to participate in more than 57 sports across 42 venues.

It is estimated that it will inject at least £16.3m into the local economy.

In its latest marketing campaign, Tourism Ireland is hoping to use the World Police and Fire Games, the G8 Summit and Derry's reign as the UK's City of Culture as key selling points to overseas markets next year.

Key markets being targeted by Tourism Ireland include the United States and Continental Europe, especially Germany, Australia and other emerging markets.

The sector is worth £400m to the Northern Ireland economy and supports around 40,000 jobs.

Tourism chiefs are also confident of further success for Titanic Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway.

Titanic Belfast smashed its visitor targets in 2012, with 615,000 visitors from 111 countries coming through its doors.

The new Giant's Causeway visitor centre has already welcomed more than 300,000 visitors from 130 countries since its opening in July.

In 2012 the Irish Open golf tournament was the first European Tour event to sell out and it’s hoped that Northern Ireland will once again be promoted as one of the world's top golfing destinations in 2013.

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