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A Titanic year for Belfast

Summary seen through the eyes of Claire Bradshaw, Head of Sales and Marketing at Titanic Belfast.

Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic Visitor Experience opened its doors to the world on 31st March 2012, marking 100 years since the completion of Titanic, the world’s most famous liner.

The iconic structure of Titanic Belfast was almost ten years in the planning and after three years of construction, was set to become Belfast’s most famous landmark. Standing at the height of the ship’s superstructure, Titanic Belfast represented a turning point in Northern Ireland’s history, and a reason to visit for people from all over the world.

Two weeks prior to opening, with construction near completion staff moved into the building and we welcomed our first team of Visitor Experience Crew. From this time, to today as I write in December 2012, life at Titanic Belfast has been one heck of a journey!

In addition to welcoming 600,000 visitors in just over eight months, 175,000 over the set annual target Titanic Belfast has been host to Olympic heroes, Royalty, political figures and celebrities… each and every one of these visits continuing to ensure that the profile of Titanic Belfast remains high, across social media, print, radio and broadcast.

There have so many memories created within the fabric of this amazing building, that we could write a book or even a mini-series! Each member of staff holds a personal favourite memory from the past eight months and I too have a personal few. As part of the preopening team, I was lucky enough to be heavily involved in the construction stage. Six months prior to opening we had a very closeknit team who were literally living and breathing the product, day and night but my very first tour of the construction site which I conducted was quite possibly my most terrifying career moment to date.

Kitted out in a hi-vis vest, steel toe capped boots and hard hat, I had the task of guiding 35 German tour agents around the building. Given the 13 flights of stairs to the top, the dust, the noise of construction and the constantly changing allocation of access zones, I can honestly say I was nervous of getting lost, losing an agent, getting locked in… the list goes on. However I had had all my training and it was time to go solo! I am pleased to report that no agent was left behind and apart from a few wrong moves which I hopefully covered, the group survived my first TB tour!

Another great memory was when we moved into our new offices in the building. It was such a momentous day, with all manner of exciting things arriving for loading into the building. Everything from cutlery, crockery, desks, catering ingredients, signage, retail stock, staff uniforms and of course staff themselves. It was quite an emotional time as we were all very aware that 100 years before us, at the exact same period in time, Titanic herself was being loaded with goods, in preparation for her maiden voyage. Similarly to our team, the crew and shipyard workers would have been full of anticipation and excitement at the imminent event, as we were, working towards 31st March 2012.

In less than eight months, Titanic Belfast has reached unimaginable heights, now standing at the heart of destination marketing for brand Belfast, brand Northern Ireland and brand Ireland. It is also a symbol of confidence in our City and in our people. The 114 different nationalities who have visited us are testament to that.

Supported by the Northern Ireland Executive, Titanic Belfast is a unique public/private partnership funded by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour and Titanic Quarter Ltd. It is operated by Titanic Belfast Ltd and owned by the Titanic Foundation Ltd.

Given the unique public/private partnership funded characteristics of the product, all eyes were upon Titanic Belfast, with stakeholder’s objectives relying heavily on the success of this iconic attraction. Such high levels of investment equated to high hopes and in line with this, previously unseen levels of tourism partnerships were established to support the marketing of Titanic Belfast.

Direct marketing partnerships were realised with Belfast City Council, Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau, NITB and Tourism Ireland. Key market segments were identified in order to fulfil the requirements for each of the product streams within TB, from the Galleries, to the conference and banqueting facilities, our education programme to retail and our Ocean Exploration Centre to our catering outlets.

Today as we look with excitement and confidence to 2013 and beyond, we have all taken time to reflect on the journey which we have been part of in 2012. A year when the city tourism partners came together to be stronger than ever, and the year in which our City was raised to new heights with the opening of this iconic superstructure, right here in Belfast.

Titanic Belfast is staffed with individuals who are full of life, enthusiasm, pride and passion for their work, yet it is never forgotten that this is all set against a backdrop of remembrance, for that fateful night and for all those who lost lives, hopes and dreams in this tragic time in history.

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