Work on a new cruise facility has now begun in Belfast – and those behind it say that is could lead to a 25 per cent boost in cruise business.
It is estimated cruise visitor spending could balloon by a quarter in three years as a result of the roughly £7m project, announced in June.
Clearance work at the site, which had formerly been leased to the MoD, began yesterday,
Building will begin in November, with an expected completion time of summer 2014.
The projection of extra trade was made by Belfast Harbour chairman Len O’Hagan, who said in a statement: “Belfast is Ireland’s fastest growing cruise destination...
“The facility will enable Belfast to be promoted as a tourist destination to an even wider range of operators, leading to a projected increase of circa 25 per cent over the next three years in the revenue generated for the local economy by cruise ship visits.”
It will mean cruise ships will move from the current berth of Stormont Wharf to the new one adjacent to Alexandra Dock in the Titanic Quarter.
At the moment, Belfast Harbour’s commercial director Joe O’Neill said that tourists are left getting off at the same side of the port that handles grain, coal and animal feed, saying “it’s not the most aesthetic environment”.
But the new berth will have lots of parking space for coaches and a welcome centre.
It is said it will be the first “purpose-built” cruise facility on the island of Ireland.
There were 32 cruise stops in Belfast in 2011, 45 in 2012, and 60 expected by the end of 2013.
He said the 25 per cent growth was based on a “base spend figure” of about £18m today.
Visiting the site yesterday was regional development minister Danny Kennedy, who hailed Belfast Port’s “significant contribution” to the economy, while tourism minister Arlene Foster, also visiting, said the development will “enhance Belfast’s reputation among cruise operators and visitors alike”.