Unveiling brand new targets as part of its Business and Marketing Plans launch for the year ahead, and up to 2022, the city’s official tourism marketing agency pledged its sales and marketing-focused activities would help to deliver a combined economic return of more than half a billion pounds.
For 2018-19 alone, Visit Belfast is pledging to return £130m to the city as part of a ramp up in its efforts to push the sector. Its combined target for the four years to 2022 is £546 million.
Visit Belfast said its planned activities to drive higher numbers of inbound business leisure tourists in the year ahead – including an 18 percent swell in numbers arriving on cruise ships to 235,000 – would help deliver the newly-set target as it pointed its sails towards 2022 and the final year of its four-year growth strategy.
It also said its aim to help double the economic value of the city’s tourism industry from out-of-state visitors by 2021 as part of Belfast City Council’s Belfast Agenda commitment remained intact as it outlined a new targeted approach to ensure delivery success.
Speaking at the launch of Visit Belfast’s plans to partners and industry delegates at Titanic Hotel Belfast on Monday, Councillor Nuala McAllister welcomed the organisation’s commitment to deliver on its new and ambitious goals as she nears the end of a successful term as Belfast’s Lord Mayor: “After a decade of investment and a focused marketing drive to promote the city as a compelling, unique and exciting destination, Belfast’s potential is fast being realised, with record visitor numbers and occupancy rates, new hotels open and planned, a year-round calendar of festivals and events and a vibrant hospitality scene that rivals some of the most popular cities in Europe.
“Belfast is buzzing. You can see it and feel it and I’m delighted as First Citizen to share in the city’s excitement as we look forward to marking new progress and achieving new milestones in the years ahead.” Belfast’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Nuala McAllister, added.
Visit Belfast said an additional focus to support the development of indigenous conferences, accelerating and expanding its sales marketing activities – including the implementation of the new Belfast brand – would help to propel the city’s tourism potential further in the year ahead.
Last year, Visit Belfast booked in a combined 475,000 leisure and conference bed nights, won 95 new conference events and secured a record-beating 117 cruise ship as part of its Cruise Belfast marketing partnership with Belfast Harbour.
With further growth in sight, including a respective 29 percent and 18 percent uplift in business and leisure tourism spend, Visit Belfast said it was confident in its ability to deliver after a year in which it handled 837,000 visitor enquiries.
Visit Belfast Chair, Dr Howard Hastings OBE, looked forward to a further year of tourism growth and commended the Visit Belfast team and the city’s tourism industry partners for their role in delivering collective success.
“We’re committed to doubling the economic value of tourism from out-out-state visitors and to ensuring Belfast and its citizens realise the benefits from a vibrant tourism sector which drives opportunity and ensures this city continues to grow its reputation as a truly great place in which to do business, to invest in, live in and to visit,” Dr Hastings said.
“However, the real cornerstones of success remain in the hands of many others – those who meet and greet, serve and transport our visitors to those who are developing businesses, hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars and new products to support this growth. As we look forward to the year ahead, they remain critical to our success.
“Our ‘Team Belfast’ ethos and our shared vision to deliver has never been so important.”
Reporting on Visit Belfast’s key successes in 2017-18, Dr Hastings confirmed that the organisation’s contribution to the city’s tourism economy increased by 22 percent across business, leisure and cruise tourism, as well as visitor services achieving double-digit percentage growth.
Visit Belfast confirmed that for every £1 invested in its tourism, sales and marketing activities, it returned £34 to the city’s economy. By 2022, it wants this to increase to £37 from every £1 spent.
Addressing delegates at the event, Visit Belfast Chief Executive, Gerry Lennon, said: “Our mission is to create and service visitors to Belfast and Northern Ireland to generate an economic benefit for the city region, creating jobs and wealth, and, as we look forward to the future with confidence, we remain acutely aware of the challenges ahead.
“However, together, we remain firmly focused on achieving our goals and are always mindful that the strength of our success continues to lie in our public-private sector framework and from the collaborative approach which has helped us to deliver.”