Visit Belfast has outlined the development of its new strategy to support the city’s economic recovery post-Covid-19, writes Shauna McCrudden
Covid-19 has affected every sector and the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit. With hospitality businesses remaining closed, we can see their loss affect cities in particular, not only around the country, but also around the world.
That’s why Visit Belfast outlined its new tourism recovery strategy at a virtual event attended by Visit Belfast’s tourism industry partners and key city stakeholders. The strategy highlighted the importance of tourism to the local economy and the opportunity for regrowth inside of three years. In 2019, Belfast accounted for £417m of tourism spend, representing more than 40% of the region’s visitor economy and supporting almost 22,000 jobs.
The official destination marketing organisation for the Belfast city region said that while the Covid-19 pandemic had dealt “a hammer blow” to Belfast’s visitor economy, the city is “well placed” to meet the challenges ahead in its new targeted, yet flexible approach to marketing the destination.
Speaking at the event, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Frank McCoubrey said, “Belfast’s tourism industry has played – and will continue to play – a leading role in attracting high-value, high-spending visitors to the city and beyond, which are so essential for growth. Belfast City Council is committed to working in partnership with Visit Belfast and the tourism industry to ensure that this happens, and that we build back better as we transition out of the current health crisis.”
The strategic marketing blueprint is part of a partnership-led approach designed to sustainably reengage with Belfast’s key tourism markets, as part of a drive to rebuild the visitor economy in the city in a more sustainable and resilient way.
In a new tourism landscape, Visit Belfast said there would be a priority focus on delivering inclusive growth and protecting and enhancing the local environment. They would do this by increasing collaboration and partnership across communities and neighbourhoods.
Kathryn Thomson, Chair of Visit Belfast, said, “The impact of Covid-19 has forced a major rethink and reimagining of our approach to tourism marketing. Our ambitions for growth and greater impact remain the same. But viewed through a lens of new priorities, we must acknowledge the need for Belfast to ‘build back better’ and tourism has a vital role to play in that.
“Cities across the globe are faced with many particular and acute challenges in the wake of Covid-19, but they are also home to the biggest tourism assets. As an established global tourism brand, Belfast is already at the table.”
James Davies, Country Director for Diageo Northern Ireland, also spoke at the event and added, “Our pubs, bars and restaurants are an integral part of the city welcome, our brand identity, culture and stories – they have been a hallmark of our local and global tourism success.”
“Hospitality is a key employer that supports thousands of jobs across the city and region and we want Diageo Northern Ireland’s on-going support to play a key role in helping to build a resilient, safe and sustainable future for the industry here.”
Visit Belfast said its planned destination marketing activities were focused on helping to return £330m to the local economy by 2023-24 (April/March) from a baseline of £30m in 2020-21 to £150m at the end of three years.
Kathryn said, “Belfast is a resilient city. While Covid-19 has struck tourism hard, we believe that by focusing on environmental sustainability, inclusive growth and greater industry collaboration and support, together we can drive tourism renewal and recovery which benefits every tourism partner in every community.
“As the region’s gateway for tourism, and a shop window for further investment, Belfast’s tourism recovery is pivotal not just for the city but for all of Northern Ireland.”
For more information about Visit Belfast, go to visitbelfast.com
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