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Staycationers vital for Northern Ireland's attractions as Titanic Belfast plans reopening

Judith Owens

Titanic Belfast has announced it will reopen on August 1 after a four-month closure likely to have cost the economy tens of millions of pounds.

The venue, which was named world's leading tourist attraction, said it usually helps draw in additional spending for the economy of £60m a year. But its revenue vanished overnight after it was forced to close at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Its closure over more than four months will have cost the economy around £20m in additional spending.

The attraction has now announced new measures and improvements before its reopening.

Measures include advanced booking only, prearranged time slots, reduced capacity, sanitising stations and social distancing throughout.

Chief executive Judith Owens said: "By attracting over 6m local, national and international visitors, we not only became a key economic driver for Northern Ireland but the symbol of it and its spirit.

"Now more than ever, we need to show the spirit and ambition that built RMS Titanic, and be the catalyst for recovery for our city and our industry.

"But to do this, we need local support, and we've enhanced our offering for the home market."

Features include its themed tour with the galleries of Titanic Belfast, and a tour of the SS Nomadic, a ship which ferried passengers to the doomed liner, which sank in 1912.

Ms Owens added: "There are also many developments in the area capitalising on the outdoor space including picnic areas and Titanic Foundation's new Maritime Mile Treasure Trail, which will be launched in August."

The six-floor Titanic Belfast was named the World's Leading Tourist Attraction at the World Travel Awards in 2016. Economy Minister Diane Dodds said the reopening of Titanic Belfast and other attractions was vital for attracting visitors.

"I would encourage all those enjoying a staycation this year to get out and enjoy all the sights, scenes and tastes Northern Ireland has to offer.

"We must all do what we can to support our local tourist industry if we want to ensure we are able to enjoy all it has to offer in the coming years."

Andrew Webb, chief economist at business advisors Grant Thornton, said attractions such as Titanic Belfast should benefit from the staycation market even if the normal floods of overseas tourists were absent.

He said that on a recent trip to the north coast, he had found that "streets and beaches seemed busier so the staycationers were out in force".

"That might bode well for major attractions reopening.

"While the international travellers are in short supply, there is a domestic market that appears increasingly willing to re-engage in our local tourism offer following lockdown," he said.

Belfast Telegraph