A delegation of more than 30 international journalists and editors arrived in Belfast last week to see and experience at first hand the transformational effect which peace, greater political and economic stability, business, regeneration and tourism growth have brought since the Good Friday Agreement was signed two decades ago.
The major inbound press event was facilitated by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), hosted by Visit Belfast and supported by Tourism Ireland.
Journalists and broadcasters from more than 15 countries, including Japan, China, Australia, Turkey, Finland, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands were represented as part of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) delegation.
Acknowledged as a defining moment in Northern Ireland’s history, the Good Friday Agreement was signed on April 10,1998.
Belfast and Northern Ireland’s success in driving tourism growth, investment and economic return was a key theme during the two-day event – and the journalists visited Titanic Belfast as part of a busy itinerary. Since opening in 2012, Titanic Belfast has welcomed more than four million visitors and represents a major government and local government commitment to tourism and the regeneration in this key area of the city.
The journalists visited Derry-Londonderry as part of their trip, exploring the potential impacts of Brexit by gauging local opinion and expert insights, as well as experiencing the city’s cultural tourism offering.
A visit to Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, one of the world’s largest urban waterfront regeneration projects and now home to Titanic Studios, had also been arranged, in addition to a variety of tours and experiences which took in all quarters and communities of the city, representing the past, present and the future.
Welcoming the Foreign Press Association correspondents to the city, Visit Belfast Chief Executive, Gerry Lennon, said: “I am very proud that such a large and esteemed group of respected international journalists and editors from the Foreign Press Association travelled to Belfast to hear about our tourism renaissance.
“With focus, significant investment and a commitment from government and industry, Belfast and Northern Ireland is now a real contender on the global tourism map, successfully and confidently competing for visitors as one of the world’s leading tourist destinations.
“Propelled by millions of pounds of public and private investment in tourism infrastructure, delivering world class attractions and events, Belfast is firmly recognised as an exciting, vibrant and forward-looking city.”
Since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, overnight stays in Belfast have more than tripled from 0.5 million a year to over 1.5 million, with tourism spend rising to £335 million from £84 million during the period.
Tourism now contributes around 6.6% of Northern Ireland’s GDP and up to 8% of its employment. In Belfast alone, the tourism sector supports more than 18,000 jobs.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Foreign Press Association to Belfast.
“With journalists from prominent media outlets around the world visiting the city this week, it’s a major coup for tourism and a superb opportunity to show them at first-hand what makes Belfast unique. It will bring significant exposure to what Belfast and Northern Ireland have to offer holidaymakers from around the world.
“Last year was the best year ever for overseas tourism to Northern Ireland – when we welcomed approximately 2.26 million overseas visitors, delivering revenue in excess of £586 million.
“This year, Tourism Ireland continues to create ‘stand out’ messaging for Northern Ireland around the world, highlighting iconic experiences like Titanic Belfast. We are committed to ensuring that Northern Ireland continues to increase its share of the global travel business.”