Belfast Telegraph

Tourism drive targets capital

By Symon Ross

Belfast's tourism sector is increasing its marketing of the city to potential visitors in Great Britain and the Republic in a bid to make up business lost because of the Icelandic ash cloud.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said that the week long air travel disruption may have resulted in up to £1.8m of direct tourism expenditure being lost to the economy.

Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau said that some hotels had reported a 20% drop in revenues that week due to cancellations at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds across the sector.

"A survey of our members has shown that many have seen a significant drop in trade due to the air traffic disruption caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland," said BVCB marketing director, Michael McCormick.

"Our concerns are now on the lasting repercussions of cancelled business and travel but we as an industry are determined to be positive and pro-actively work together to promote the city, its attractions, great range of accommodation and ease of access.

"We are re-doubling our marketing efforts, particularly in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain as well as in other parts of Europe in order to encourage those who may have been forced to cancel or alter their plans to consider coming to Belfast this spring and summer," he added.

Andrea Hayes from Flybe is one of the carriers joining forces with BVCB to bring business and leisure travellers back to the city.

She said: "There is no denying that the flight ban has taken its toll on our business and we are keen to encourage passengers to return to Belfast and see passenger levels return to what they should be. We're already working hard to recoup the losses caused by this unusual event."

Howard Hastings of Hastings Hotels added: "Since the crisis began, the staff and management in each of our hotels worked around the clock to accommodate guests who found themselves unable to leave the country. They also found themselves looking after local people and those from elsewhere in Ireland and Great Britain who found that their holiday plans had been hampered by the flight ban. While we have had a number of cancellations, our own marketing efforts have sought to minimise the impact."

BVCB is strengthening its current out-of-state marketing campaign which includes a multi-media promotional mix of TV, radio and outdoor activity, PR and digital marketing.

The aim is to appeal to visitors to spend spring in Belfast by focusing on value breaks and highlighting festivals including the Festival of Fools, the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Belfast Children's Festival, the Titanic Maritime Festival and other unique attractions.