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Belfast’s tourism potential “remains high” despite pandemic

Date: 09 Dec 2020

Category: Tourism


The potential to grow Belfast’s tourism remains high and is both “feasible and necessary” to the city’s post-Covid recovery, a Belfast City Council committee has heard.

Members of the Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee were updated this evening on Council’s 10 year tourism plan for Belfast, and have agreed to carry out a public consultation next year once the final draft plan has been submitted for their approval.

The plan has been aligned to Council’s cultural strategy, recognising the importance of a thriving and varied cultural scene to attracting and growing tourism. It is also focused on delivering the tourism priorities set out in the Belfast Agenda, as well as providing strategic context to the Belfast Region City Deal, and supporting economic and social recovery post-Covid.

Councillor David Brooks, chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said: “The positive trajectory we were experiencing pre-Covid identified tourism growth as both feasible and necessary - this remains the case; and in a post-Covid world, it has renewed significance as we work to support the tourism and hospitality industries on their recovery journey, and ensure there is a sustainable model in place that will secure jobs and further growth.

“Our cultural and tourism strategies have been aligned because we know that a strong and authentic cultural scene helps to drive tourism and attract visitors, which in turn leads to job creation within the local economy, and this inclusive growth is crucial to our city’s recovery post-Covid and our future resilience.”

A recent report by Ernst and Young assessing the potential impact of Covid19 on the city identified Belfast as an important attractor for international, high value tourists to the region.

An analysis of regional statistics revealed that spending by tourists in Belfast outpaced the Northern Ireland average, growing by 20% year on year compared to 4.5% regionally. It cited that this was due to Belfast’s success in two high value markets – city breaks and business tourism.

It also found that spending by tourists in Belfast outpaced the Northern Ireland average, growing by 20% year on year compared to 4.5% regionally.

Councillor Brooks said: “The ongoing pandemic has had a devastating impact on our tourism and hospitality industries, but despite a gloomy year, Belfast is still in a very strong position when it comes to the potential for growing our tourism product. This 10 year plan will help focus our efforts and ensure that we remain on track to help Belfast achieve its tourism potential, while working with our city stakeholders and tourism partners.”

Members of the Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee considered a number of recommendations including:

  • renovating/upgrading existing tourism facilities during ‘quiet’ periods to improve quality of tourism offer
  • identifying ways for Belfast attractions to be unique/authentic to the city and distinguishable internationally
  • recognising that sustainable tourism must respect local context and the cultural values of the city
  • growing the tourism industry will be a driver for inclusive growth not just for Belfast, but for the entire region
  • taking a ‘narrative driven’ approach to enable the people of Belfast to tell the story of Belfast and create an emotional connection for visitors

A final draft plan will be brought back to Members to consider next spring, before going out to public consultation.

The decision of the committee is due to be ratified at January’s meeting of Council.

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