Belfast Telegraph

Dirty weekend? Belfast’s perfect ...

By Lindy McDowell

A study suggesting that by 2020 our tourism industry could be raking in £1bn per annum and supporting tens of thousands of jobs comes as no big surprise.

The tourists are already coming here in their droves. The trick is to keep them coming. We need to up our game.

Can you see visitors rushing back to tell their friends how they must come visit Belfast and see for themselves all those cute red and white plastic bollards surrounding the gouged out canyons of the city centre?

Or waxing lyrical over the holiday snaps of city streets lined with litter, pools of vomit, pigeon droppings, the occasional collapsed wino and myriad Big Issue sellers?

The other day in the city centre I spotted a rat as hefty as a fox terrier.

It was hoovering up discarded fast food detritus like a hoodie sucking Buckfast.

And while it may have added a certain frisson of excitement to the visitor experience of the map-carrying couple who leapt several feet at the sight of the thing I suspect it’s not what they actually came here to see.

The glorious Pride parade at the weekend, the pipe band championships, the many festivals — these are examples of how we can get it right in Belfast. Then there are the business people achieving heroic things. (Does bar owner Willy Jack not deserve a knighthood for how he has transformed the area around the Duke of York?)

But if we’re going to clean up financially from tourism, we need to clean up in a more literal sense.

Belfast overall is a dirty tip. Tourists notice these things.

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