Earlier this month when the Tall Ships sailed into Belfast, and an estimated half a million people came onto the streets to view them, the media attention that was generated became a PR person’s dream.
One week earlier another important tourism building block was created when a Washington DC-based peace and humanitarian organisation, Sister Cities International, held its 53rd annual conference in Belfast.
This was the first time that this event was ever held outside the USA and the theme of the conference was ‘Building Enduring Peace After Conflict’.
The conference was held in our very impressive Waterfront Hall and featured a reception at Parliament Buildings, hosted and addressed by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
It also featured a reception held by Belfast City Council in the historic Ulster Hall and addressed by the Lord Mayor of Belfast Naomi Long.
In tandem with this a youth conference was held at Queen’s University with a theme of ‘Bridging Differences: Building a Peaceful Future’ and attended by almost 200 young people between the ages of 15 and 18 years.
In total, the event attracted around 800 people representing 24 countries to Northern Ireland — many of whom took extended vacations either side of the conference and who were welcomed and hosted in many areas of Northern Ireland by a number of local councils on a totally cross-community basis.
The one major disappointment was the total lack of media interest in this unique and historic conference. All sections of the media were well briefed about the event and its background.
Not one printed word appeared in the Belfast Press and about five minutes of air-time was all that was provided on Radio Ulster.
It is difficult to understand what has to be done to secure the interest of the local media in a good news story that was, in its own small way, just as important to the reinvention of Belfast as a must-visit destination as the Tall Ships.
CLLR ALAN CHAMBERS
North Down Borough Council