Thousands spent on Lord Mayor's China trip in push to lure tourists
Belfast City Council has spent £25,000 of ratepayer's money to send Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey on a trip to China.
Ms Hargey is giving a keynote address at the World Winter Cities Annual Meeting in Belfast's 'Sister City' of Shenyang, during a five-day visit to the Far East this week.
A council spokesperson confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph: "Council agreed in March this year a maximum budget of £25,000 to cover all expenditure for the China visit, including attendance at the World Winter Cities Conference which the Lord Mayor has been invited to address, and the production of the tourism showcase which is under way in Shenyang."
The aim of the trip is to raise the profile of Belfast as a visitor destination for China's 100 million overseas travellers, with new flights from Beijing to Ireland now operating. Discussions will also include trade and export with Shenyang through its Free Trade Zone Status, as well as strengthening the city's commitment to Queen's University's pharmaceutical science college in China, and Ulster University's investment there.
Ms Hargey, who left last Saturday for the five-day visit, said: "Our attention is on highlighting business and leisure tourism and establishing Belfast as a destination of choice for the Chinese market.
"Around 100 million Chinese people travel internationally each year, so there is huge potential for tourism and our visit is an ideal opportunity to highlight the many unique attractions available in Belfast and the wider region.
"The trip is in line with the aims of our Belfast Agenda to attract more inward investment to boost our economy in tourism, creative industries and digital economy, providing a better life for those living or working in, and visiting Belfast," added the Lord Mayor.
Visit Belfast's chief executive, Gerry Lennon, accompanied the Lord Mayor to China.
"We're already seeing a growing number of Chinese visitors arriving in to Belfast," he said.
"We're looking forward to helping the Lord Mayor showcase Belfast to key travel trade agencies in China."