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Giro d’Italia is the latest chapter in the turnaround of Belfast

Morning View

Morning View

After the long trauma of the Troubles, it sometimes feels one has to pinch oneself at some of the extraordinarily unlikely-sounding good news developments that are beginning to happen in Northern Ireland.

Last year it was the G8 summit, and those happy images that were beamed around the world of the planet’s most powerful leaders arriving in the beautiful setting of Lough Erne, amid sunny weather.

The year before it was the MTV awards, held in the centre of Belfast, which had in the 1970s been a fortified zone, amid the fears of explosions.

This year it will be the prestigious Giro d’Italia cycling race.

Soon the Irish Open golf tournament will be returning to a Province that has produced three major trophy winners in the sport in recent years.

All the while, Ulster has become an unexpected backdrop to the mega-successful Game of Thrones fantasy TV series.

And cruise ships, which would not have contemplated a Belfast stop-off during the years of political violence, now arrive by the dozen.

Meanwhile, the new Titanic centre is a hit with the public.

A decade ago this would have all seemed barely conceivable.

Visit Belfast, which promotes the city as a tourist and business destination, is now thinking the capital can attract almost eight million visitors this year, partly due to the boost from the Giro d’Italia.

This is an exciting target, and an astonishing turnaround.

Forty years ago, Belfast was a destination only for international war correspondents.

Now that past is itself part of the tourist trail, as curious visitors tour our murals (which underscores why we need a strategy to keep some of that artwork with local consent).

These tourism triumphs have been an exciting new chapter in the history of Northern Ireland.

 

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