Belfast Telegraph

Visit Belfast has plans to double overnight stays in Belfast

By Margaret Canning

Visit Belfast - the organisation tasked with increasing business and tourist visitor numbers to the city - has said it aims to more than double overnight stays in the city to 600,000.

Visit Belfast, unveiling its strategy for 2015 to 2018, vowed to extend Belfast's year-round appeal and improve the experience of the city's visitors.

It aims to increase overnight stays from both tourists and business visitors from 290,000 to 600,000 by 2018. And it's also chasing after a bigger share of the conference market - and claimed that the extension to the Watefront Hall will give it more sway in the lucrative conference sector.

Its bid to attract more visitors will entail targeting two cohorts - the younger traveller and the so-called 'culturally curious,' attracted by the city's heritage.

The plans were unveiled at an event for the industry in Belfast City Hall yesterday.

The separate integrated tourism strategy 2015-20 includes plans to double tourism revenue for the city to £870m by 2020 from £438m in 2013.

Visit Belfast chief executive Gerry Lennon said: "International tourism is a growth industry but the global marketplace is getting tougher as cities and countries emerge.

"Belfast is outperforming others in terms of growth and we can continue to do that with the right focus, priorities, investment and activity.

"Visit Belfast, its funders, partners, stakeholders and members, look forward to delivering that continued success, to rapidly increasing the impact of tourism on the local economy and to ensuring we play a significant part in the goal to create a £1bn tourism industry in Northern Ireland by 2020."

He added: "Last year, we saw record levels of hotel occupancy in Belfast, which is testament to the partnerships in place to promote the city both in the UK, Ireland and overseas, and this clearly validates that Belfast has become one of the world's leading tourist destinations.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Arder Carson said Belfast was able to offer world-class attractions, top restaurants and independent shops. And he said the council recognised the importance of tourism to the city, and that it contributed to the economy directly and indireclty.

"From supporting 17,000 jobs within the tourism economy, to enabling investment in infrastructure, transport services and leisure and cultural facilities, a growing tourism industry ultimately benefit us all."

He said all parties now had to focus on raising the tourist economy to an even higher level. "Working together, we have made great strides in both attracting and delivering visitors to Belfast and the outlook remains bright."

Travel website TripAdvisor has placed Belfast number seven in the top 10 of UK destinations, describing the city as "a cosmopolitan destination".

Belfast Telegraph