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Belfast City Council

Strength of Euro helps grow Belfast tourism

The continuing strength of the Euro against the pound is benefiting Belfast’s growing tourism industry, according to figures released by Belfast City Council. In 2008, visitors from the Republic of Ireland represented more than 80 per cent of day trippers travelling to Belfast – and also made up almost a quarter of those staying overnight.

This represents massive growth compared with the previous 12 months, when the Irish Republic made up 33 per cent of day trippers and just nine per cent of overnight stays in 2007.

The growth is reported in the Belfast Tourism Monitor – an annual analysis of the city’s tourism industry – which was presented to Belfast City Council last night (Wednesday 1 July).

And the success of the council in developing new products to further enhance the city’s offering also has been recognised by the industry itself:  the ‘Late Night Art’ initiative, which sees galleries across the city opening until 9pm on the first Thursday of each month, was named ‘Best New Product’ at last month’s Northern Ireland Tourism Awards. This initiative has been extended to Sundays over the summer months.

At the same awards ceremony, Belfast Welcome Centre, which is funded by the council, won Best Tourist Information Centre, while the council’s own Cultural Tourism Visitor Management Plan, which includes our unique visitor signage, was a winner at the international Association of Town Centre Management awards.

“These awards show the worth of Belfast City Council’s continued commitment to developing new products and supporting our vibrant tourism industry, especially during these difficult economic times,” commented Councillor William Humphrey, Chairman of the council’s Development Committee.

The Belfast Tourism Monitor presents a detailed breakdown of what the record 7.1 million visitors in 2008 did while in Belfast, and how they spent the £436.5 million they invested into the city’s economy.

The figures show that, while the overall number of visitors rose by just three per cent, the numbers of out-of-state visitors – i.e. those from outside Northern Ireland – rose by 43 per cent, with the number of those undertaking day trips to Belfast rising by an incredible 143 per cent.

“This growth can be largely attributed to the growing number of visitors from the Republic of Ireland, many of them taking advantage of the strength of the Euro against sterling, especially in the run up to last Christmas,” reported Councillor Humphrey.

Visitors from over the border accounted for four out of five people undertaking a day trip to Belfast.  This compares with just one in ten five years ago. They also made up one in every four people staying overnight, compared to one in eight back in 2004, when the Belfast Tourism Monitor was first published.

The city’s hotels and restaurants understandably fared best in terms of where visitors spent their money in 2008. Accommodation and eating out accounted for 52 per cent of expenditure by tourists:  this rose to 74 per cent of expenditure by conference delegates and 76 per cent of that by other business visitors.

The annual survey showed that 67 per cent of those visiting Belfast in 2008 were doing so for the first time. This figure rose to almost 70 per cent among conference delegates. However, some 16 per cent of visitors return to Belfast on an annual basis.

Holiday and business visits continue to remain the main reason for people visiting Belfast. Holidays accounted for 62 per cent of visitors from the Republic and 44 per cent of those from north America, while business trips brought in 73 per cent of European visitors.

The Tourism Monitor also provides a detailed analysis of what visitors, both day trippers and those staying overnight, did during their stay, what they visited and where they went.

The report found that the City Hall, shopping, bus tours and the historic Crown Bar remained the most popular attractions for visitors, with Queen’s University, Botanic Gardens, St George’s Market, St Anne’s Cathedral, Parliament Buildings at Stormont and areas associated with the Troubles completing the top ten.

The most popular activity by all visitors was a walk around the city, followed by visiting a pub, bars and nightclubs, eating out, taking a trip on the Belfast Wheel and ‘people watching’. Visiting both loyalist and republican murals also featured high on visitors’ ‘to do’ list.

The research also found that half of all out-of-state visitors booked their accommodation directly with a hotel, guesthouse or bed and breakfast – and almost a quarter of them did not book it advance.  Of those who did book in advance, some 70 per cent did so over the internet.

The Monitor also reported that more than 60 per cent of overnight visitors appeared to ‘play it by ear’ during their stay, not consulting websites, listings guides, maps or leaflets to find out about the city and what was going on at the time.

Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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