Belfast has been named the best city in the UK in a national awards aimed at highlighting the the best in the British tourism industry.
The annual Guardian and Observer Travel 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.
“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,” said councillor Deirdre Hargey, chair of Belfast City Council city growth and regeneration committee.
“This award is for the whole city and everyone who works hard to contribute to Belfast’s success.”
It clearly demonstrated, the strength of Belfast’s expanding tourism offering and the quality of the visitor experience that they delivered, she said.
“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.
“The Council’s investment in the flagship Visit Belfast Welcome Centre has been a great success, dealing with almost 700,000 enquiries in 2015.”
Howard Hastings, managing director of Hastings Hotels and currently chairman of the Visit Belfast Board, said the award had a wider relevance than for the city alone.
“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 the hotel sector, as well as the tourism industry as a whole, would enable further growth in the number of overseas visitors and the resulting contribution 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.”
Visit Belfast chief executive Gerry Lennon, said the city was now successfully competing on a world stage with agency’s 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.”