Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds joined and addressed the board of Visit Belfast at the Stormont Hotel on Thursday (27 August 2020) to discuss its recovery plans in response to the challenges faced by the city’s tourism sector as a result of the coronavirus health emergency.

The official destination marketing organisation for the Belfast city region, Visit Belfast has been working closely with leading public and private sector stakeholders to drive tourism recovery, create new opportunities and sustainable longer term growth for Belfast across the business, leisure and cruise tourism sectors.

Tourism in the Belfast City region is estimated to contribute around £0.5 billion annually. This equates to more than half (52%) of the entire Northern Ireland visitor economy, according to the most recent official estimates*.

At the meeting, which was held under social distancing guidelines, the Minister heard from Visit Belfast chief executive Gerry Lennon on the particular challenges faced by the city’s tourism businesses and the organisation’s plans for recovery. The Minister reiterated her continued support while commending the efforts being made by the wider tourism industry in reopening safely and in instilling visitor confidence.

The Minister said:

“I would like to thank Visit Belfast for the invitation. I acknowledge the unique difficulties which the Covid-19 crisis has presented to our cities so it was important to hear the organisation’s plans to drive recovery. It was useful to discuss how we encourage more people to enjoy what Belfast and Northern Ireland has to offer. Right now, our biggest market is on our doorstep. It is very clear that our tourism providers have an amazing product to offer but it is important they are supported during this challenging time.”

Since March, Visit Belfast has proactively supported and promoted vital public health messaging and guidance for visitors and staff while ensuring the city’s award-winning credentials remain front-of-mind among potential visitors as travel restrictions have eased. It has also been helping to support the local hospitality and retail sectors, including promoting safe city staycations, daytrips and visitor attractions.

As the gateway to the region, and a key contributor to the wider economy, Belfast will have a pivotal role in supporting the region’s tourism and overall economic recovery.

Visit Belfast Chair, Michael Williamson, said:

“On behalf of the entire board, I was delighted to welcome the Minister’s valuable contributions and insights as part our meeting and we welcome her resolute commitment to supporting the industry and Visit Belfast’s plans to help steer a sustainable tourism recovery for Belfast and the wider region.

“Belfast, like many cities, faces specific tourism challenges and has disproportionately felt the effects of the crisis which need to be addressed as part of an overall economic recovery plan for Northern Ireland. Despite these huge challenges, however, I remain confident that through the determination, commitment and experience of all our partners, coupled with government support, tourism can and will recover and continue to play a central role in our economy.

Funded by Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and more than 500 industry partners, Visit Belfast is responsible for creating and servicing visitors for Belfast and Northern Ireland in a city which is the driving force for regional tourism growth and connectivity.