Visit Belfast breaks new ground after summer of tourism highs

Belfast Welcome Centre celebrates 1m visitor milestone after bumper tourism season

Visit Belfast chair, Dr. Howard Hastings (left) with the organisation’s chief executive Gerry Lennon.

Belfast turned in a record-breaking summer season this year as hotels filled to near-capacity with an increased number of international conference delegates, group tour visitors and city-breakers, together with record cruise passengers and day trippers, figures from Visit Belfast revealed today (Thursday 19th October 2017).

Official data from STR Global shows that from April to the end of September, hotels reported an average hotel room occupancy rate of 87.8% with peak months June and August recording 92% and 93%, respectively. Additionally, since January 2017, there have been only 45 days where room occupancy dropped below 75%.

Conference and event travel continues to boost the tourism industry in Belfast, keeping hotels busy midweek, particularly during the months leading into the peak summer season.

More than 40 conferences took place in Belfast from April to September, bringing almost 16,000 delegates from across the world and generating almost 50,000 bed nights and contributing around £22 million to the local economy, Visit Belfast reported.

Top-tier and large-scale specialist events hosted in Belfast during this period included the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, the 18th International Conference on Diseases of Fish and Shellfish and the Association of Breast Surgery annual general meeting.

In addition to these business-led events, Belfast tourism benefited from both the Women’s Rugby World Cup and the UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship which attracted thousands of sports fans from across the world in August.

Visit Belfast confirmed a bumper cruise season this summer too, with 94 ships and almost 160,000 passengers and crew arriving to sample the city’s attractions and retail offer, including the supersized Regal Princess, which brought 3,600 visitors to the city alone. Visit Belfast works with Belfast Harbour as part of its Cruise Belfast partnership to ensure that the city, and Northern Ireland, continues to grow share of this highly-competitive market.

Visit Belfast Chair, Dr Howard Hastings, said a strong spring start had helped build momentum for this record-breaking summer season and that the city was now on track to deliver another year of growth for inbound tourism.

“What we have seen during the first six months of this financial year is that Belfast’s compelling tourist offer – from hotels and conference venues, to award-winning attractions and great food and drink – is becoming a key driver and export industry for the city and an important driver of regional economy.

“Last year, Visit Belfast’s combined sales and marketing activity delivered an economic impact of over £100m, and with this year looking to be just as, if not more successful, the Belfast Agenda goal of doubling the value of out-of-state tourism by 2021 is firmly in our sights.

“The growth in Belfast’s appeal as a tourist destination is thanks to investment from the tourism industry and commitment from central and local government in promoting Belfast nationally and internationally.

“Visit Belfast is a successful public private sector partnership supported by Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland and is an example of an efficient and effective DMMO that continues to deliver value for both the public purse and the private purse”

Visit Belfast also marked a brand new milestone – the arrival of the 1,000,000th visitor to its flagship Welcome Centre which opened in December 2013 in Donegall Square North, with funding support from the European Regional Development Fund administered by Tourism Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council’s investment programme.

More than 530,000 tourist enquiries were also handled by its team of staff across its tourist information points from April through to the end of September.

Meanwhile, online interest in travelling to Belfast during the period saw 2.5 million page visits on, while social media activity generated more than 18 million views and 630,000 online engagements.

Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast added:

“These results are a combined effort of all those involved in the city’s tourism and confirm our ability as a city and region to compete and attract tourists from all markets and key sectors, as well as meeting and exceeding visitor expectations while they are here.

“The favourable Euro exchange rate, coupled with targeted and timely sales and marketing activity from Visit Belfast and partners has also been to the city’s advantage in attracting increased share of out of state visitors, with recent figures indicating significant growth from ROI and European direct access markets.

“Since 2012, the step change contribution of the global icon Titanic Belfast is notable, attracting visitors from over 145 countries and four million visitors.”

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