Northern Ireland tourism recovery buoyed by a better-than-expected restart to cruise tourism, with 72 cruise ship arrivals to Belfast this year.
The arrival of Fred Olsen’s Borealis into Belfast this morning – the 72nd cruise call in 2021 – marks the end of a successful cruise season this year.
Since the first cruise ship returned to Belfast 5 months ago, the city has welcomed the arrival of more than 55,000 passengers to Belfast, with 15 cruise lines and a number of world-class ships making inaugural calls to Belfast this year.
The safe resumption of cruise tourism began on 17th June with the arrival of MSC’s new flagship MSC Virtuosa. This followed months of close partnership working by Cruise Belfast, industry operators, Public Health Agency and relevant agencies, to implement a robust Covid-19 Port Management Plan.
Michael Robinson, Belfast Harbour’s Port Director said, “After such a challenging time for the tourism industry we have been delighted to welcome 72 vessels to Belfast this season, with cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, MSC and Saga visiting our shores.
“In recent weeks we were also pleased to mark a significant milestone for cruise tourism in Northern Ireland, as we celebrated the 1,000th cruise call to Belfast, with the arrival of MS Queen Elizabeth.
“Reaching the landmark of our 1000th vessel to visit the city, and attracting new ships including the stunning Borealis and Bolette, reflects both the success of the relationships we have made with international cruise operators and the development of Belfast and Northern Ireland as an exciting cruise tourism destination.”
Borealis Captain, Rommel Pineda, of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said:
“It has been great to visit Belfast on a number of occasions this year, and a real privilege to be able to share our new ship, Borealis, with our guests here.
“We have offered four sailings calling to the city since we resumed sailing earlier this summer as we celebrated some of the wonderful destinations in our British Isles.
“Next year we are really excited to be offering departures from Belfast, and we are already looking forward to a successful season of sailing from the port again in 2022.”
Mary Jo McCanny, Director of Visitor Services, Visit Belfast, reflected on the success of the season:
“We knew that this year would be very different to previous cruise seasons. However, the many millions of pounds of investment in our tourism infrastructure and visitor experiences in recent years has put Belfast and Northern Ireland in a strong position to welcome cruise visitors back.
“I’m extremely pleased to see that we have been able to welcome more than 55,000 visitors ashore, and do what we do best – delivering the first-class welcome and experience the city and region is renowned for.
“Collaboration and the commitment of the tourism industry and funding support from the DfE Tourism Recovery Programme, have been instrumental in enabling Cruise Belfast to place the necessary safety protocols needed to provide reassurance and confidence for visitors arriving into Belfast”.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Set up in 1999, Cruise Belfast is a marketing and visitor servicing partnership between Belfast Harbour and Visit Belfast to attract cruise visitors to Belfast and Northern Ireland
2. Belfast Harbour is Northern Ireland’s leading gateway for trade, services and tourism, handling more than two thirds of the imports and exports that come into and out of the region by sea. The Port is essential to the smooth running of day-to-day life in the region and a major contributor to Northern Ireland’s economy. The Harbour estate is also home to a vibrant community of people and businesses, including commercial and residential real estate, film studios and leading companies in sectors such as IT, R&D, engineering and aerospace who employ over 27,000 people.
Working in partnership with stakeholders, Belfast Harbour’s vision is to become the world’s best regional port by growing economic activity, adopting new technology and upholding the highest environmental standards. Belfast Harbour is also committed to developing an iconic waterfront that is a standout destination for the city’s residents and visitors.
As a Trust Port, all profits from Belfast Harbour are re-invested for the long-term benefit of our customers and wider society.
3. Visit Belfast is a public/private sector partnership funded and supported by Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and the private sector. It is the official tourism marketing agency for the Belfast City Region, dedicated to promoting Belfast as a city break, conference and cruise ship destination. It is also responsible for the operation of three gateway visitor information centres.
Visit Belfast represents more than 500 tourism businesses and services across the industry including accommodation providers, attractions, conference venues and services, tour operators, transport providers, entertainment venues, restaurants and cafes, pubs and clubs and event organisers.
4. Cruise operators have agreed that plans and protocols will be verified by a qualified, independent third party to ensure their COVID-19 Management Plans meet approved standards. In addition, prior to the recommencement of passenger operations, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will complete a full Expanded Inspection of cruise ships.
5. To facilitate the Covid-19 Port Management Plan, further investment has been made to the Cruise Welcome Facility situated in D1, Airport Road West, with some funding support from the DfE Tourism Recovery Programme, administered through Tourism Northern Ireland.