Top global cruise executives are in Belfast this week to see first-hand the attractions and experiences that are making Northern Ireland an increasingly popular cruise call destination.

The three-day familiarisation trip (fam trip) coordinated by Cruise Belfast, has been funded by the Department for the Economy through the Tourism Recovery Action Plan delivered by Tourism Northern Ireland, and aims to support the on-going recovery of the sector and stimulate long term tourism growth.

Following months of close collaboration with industry operators and relevant government and public Health agencies, Cruise Belfast successfully navigated the safe return of cruise tourism last year with 72 cruise arrivals into Belfast between June and November.

Travelling from England, France, Monaco, the Netherlands and the US, and representing nine international cruise lines operating in European waters, the cruise executives who are responsible for developing their cruise line’s shore excursion programme have been joined by the two key shore excursion companies operating on the island of Ireland.

Rachael McGuickin, Director of Business Development, Sustainability and Transformation at Visit Belfast welcomed the group trip: “After the most challenging of times for both the cruise and tourism industries, it’s great that Cruise Belfast has been able to host this fam trip to Northern Ireland. 

It provides an important opportunity for the teams at Belfast Harbour and Visit Belfast to reconnect with existing cruise contacts and create new relationships.  The trip also gives us the opportunity to promote the first-class welcome facilities and services that Cruise Belfast can provide cruise operators and showcasing a sample of the attractions and experiences that Northern Ireland can offer cruise visitors over the coming years.”

Highlights of the itinerary include attractions already popular with cruise visitors as well as introducing attractions not currently included on shore excursions or those that have opened during or since the pandemic.

Michael Robinson Port Director at Belfast Harbour added: “As a maritime city famed for the warmth of its welcome, Belfast and Northern Ireland offers unrivalled cruise facilities and visitor experiences. At the peak in 2019, Belfast Harbour welcomed 285,000 people and we expect 2022 to be similarly successful.

“Collaboration and the commitment of the tourism industry has enabled Cruise Belfast to safely welcome cruise ships back last year and this fam trip further underpins the will to see cruise tourism levels return to pre-pandemic levels and secure long-term sustainable growth.”

Attractions being visited include Titanic Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol, Causeway Coast, Game of Thrones Studio Tour, Hinch Distillery, Hillsborough Castle and the Ulster Folk Museum.  The executives will also enjoy a city food tour starting from St George’s Market and a traditional music evening in the city as well as meeting representatives from the Titanic Distillery due to open later this year.

Providing the funding support to develop the insightful itinerary, Naomi Waite, Tourism NI’s Director of Marketing said: “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 rebuild cruise tourism.

 “As cruise lines resume their operations and look to develop new and exciting itineraries to compete within a highly competitive market place, it is crucial that we create opportunities to let decision makers experience everything Northern Ireland has to offer for themselves.”

Pictured with the group is Colin McClements, Port Commercial Manager, Belfast Harbour, Rachael McGuickin Director of Business Development, Sustainability and Transformation at Visit Belfast and Naomi Waite, Tourism Northern Ireland’s Director of Marketing.