Belfast has scooped a top accolade at the Guardian and Observer Travel Awards 2016, winning the Best UK City award.
The annual awards recognise excellence across the tourism industry, and are voted for by readers of both the Guardian and the Observer newspapers.
This is the first time Belfast has won the award, although it has previously been listed in the top five on several occasions, most recently in 2009.
Councillor Deirdre Hargey, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee welcomed the award for Belfast saying, “This is testament to how far the city has come in recent years and we are thrilled that Belfast has been officially recognised by Guardian and Observer readers as their favourite city.
“This award clearly demonstrates the strength of Belfast's expanding tourism offering and the quality of the visitor experience that we collectively deliver. The Council's investment in the flagship Visit Belfast Welcome Centre has been a great success, dealing with almost 700,000 enquiries in 2015.
“Tourism is an important contributor to the city’s economy, supporting 8,000 jobs across several sectors, and this win gives us confidence that we can achieve our goal of doubling the value of tourism by 2020. This award is for the whole city and everyone who works hard to contribute to Belfast’s success."
Dr. Howard Hastings, Chairman of Visit Belfast's Board, and Managing Director of Hastings Hotels, also commented, saying “Belfast represents more than 50 percent of NI tourism and is an important barometer of the wider region’s tourism success. The city has a new energy and exciting vibe and is really asserting itself as a premier tourism destination for business and leisure. Continued investment in our hotel sector, as well as the tourism industry as a whole, will enable further growth in overseas visitors and the contribution this makes to the local economy.
“Belfast truly is a city to be proud of, and it is fantastic to see that so many people have had such positive experiences whilst visiting.”
Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast, said “Belfast is now successfully competing on a world stage with our sales and marketing plans delivering increased market share of city break, conference and cruise visitors each year. Investment and vision have been key to Belfast's success and the city now offers world-class visitor attractions and events, great local food, from Michelin star restaurants to gastro pubs, and award-winning markets. With so many reasons to visit, and a warm welcome guaranteed, it is wonderful to see the city’s tourism sector recognised through this award.”