The Belfast City Region’s destination management and marketing organisation has raised its growth target for 2022, promising an economic return for Belfast of £97million.
Belfast’s tourism sector also expects to see further growth this year, buoyed by a steady and sustained rise in consumer and business optimism from the city key tourism sectors – business events, city breaks and cruise, according to Visit Belfast.
Launching its marketing plans for the first time in more than two years to over 150 industry partners and stakeholders at Titanic Belfast, Visit Belfast said its strategy going forward will be to drive Belfast’s tourism recovery, supporting partner businesses and converting visitor interest in the city to visits through focussed target marketing, sales and visitor servicing.
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Visit Belfast embarked on its three-year tourism recovery plan, Rebuilding City Tourism, early last year with its aim to rebuild Belfast’s tourism economy to above pre-pandemic levels by 2025, delivering a forecasted £150 million economic return, up from £135 million in 2019.
Visit Belfast chair Kathryn Thomson said that after a difficult two years, and despite the challenges ahead, there are many reasons for optimism.
She explained: “Tourism plays a pivotal part in Belfast’s social and economic life and is key to the city’s wellbeing, regeneration and development as it continues to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Despite current challenges, Visit Belfast remains optimistic that Belfast’s resilient tourism sector will continue to move towards full recovery.
Showcasing Belfast’s unique and authentic tourism experiences to audiences across Great Britain, Ireland and beyond will enable us to compete effectively and grow, position and sustain city tourism.”
Visit Belfast plans aim to attract 144 cruise visits with an estimated 345,000 cruise visitors as part of its Cruise Belfast partnership with Belfast Harbour – adding to the city’s international arrivals.
It is also targeting a significant number of major business events with the aim of generating £40 million in economic value and attracting up to 30,000 delegates, adding to the 118 event bookings already secured and worth an estimated £79m for Belfast over the next few years.
Marketing activity will play a key role in Visit Belfast’s plans with an increased focus on digital campaigns and online content in order to support its sales activity and attract new and repeat local, national and international visitors, generating 150,000 bed nights and 100,000 daytrips during 2022-23.
Gerry Lennon, Visit Belfast’s chief executive, said: “Last year continued be a particularly challenging one for the city. However, through a dynamic and collaborative partnership approach, and agile marketing, Visit Belfast contributed to the recovery of visitor numbers from our key closer-to-home markets of Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, while continuing to reach out to international markets to keep Belfast front-of-mind for future visits.
“The Belfast City Region is well placed to recover given the strength of our tourism and cultural offer alongside a wealth of visitor experiences including world class attractions, award-winning hospitality and food and a vibrant music scene.
Our industry has a track record for its resilience and determination to succeed against the odds. I’m therefore confident that the outlook for the year ahead is positive and Visit Belfast will play a key role in ensuring city tourism returns to the record levels enjoyed in 2019.”
John McGrillen, Chief Executive of Tourism Northern Ireland, said: “Tourism NI and Visit Belfast are working in close collaboration to drive forward the recovery of our tourism industry and I welcome the ambitious and exciting plans for the year ahead. also commend our industry across Belfast and beyond who are determined to reinvigorate the economy of the wider region.
We are all grateful for the efforts being made and look forward to a stronger, brighter and more prosperous future.”
Visit Belfast is a public-private partnership with more than 500 industry businesses, operators and service providers from across city. Funded by Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland and supported by strategic and corporate partners including Translink, Diageo NI and Value Cabs, Visit Belfast plays a pivotal role in helping to drive tourism growth across the region.
Last year, Visit Belfast generated almost 331,000 bed nights for the city, handled over 263,000 visitor enquiries and directly supported over 400 business partners. It’s business teams also secured 60 new events with an anticipated 17,000 delegate arrivals that will generate over 44,000 bed nights in future years. For this year, it anticipates handling more than 500,000 visitor enquiries, helping to generate a local spend of £11 million.
Visit Belfast’s digital activity also delivered strong results, with more than 28 million impacts recorded across all its online channels, significantly higher than 2019 pre-pandemic levels, demonstrating growing interest in the city from all its main markets and underlining the importance of its online communications marketing activity.