Visit Belfast is gearing up for more tourism growth in 2014 after unveiling ambitious new plans to help drive city visitor numbers towards an all-time annual high approaching almost eight million in 2014.

The organisation which promotes and markets Belfast locally, nationally and internationally as a leading leisure, business and cruise destination, said it would also be seeking to increase the local economic impact from its activities across all its prioritised segments and sectors.

Visit Belfast confirmed that its focus for 2014 would be to drive further growth in visitor numbers in the key leisure and business markets through a sales-focused approach supported by a series of engaging marketing campaigns and tactical activity. This will add more than £64 million to the local economy in 2014, up 5% on last year.

Addressing tourism, hospitality and retail businesses at an industry meeting, Visit Belfast’s Chief Executive Gerry Lennon outlined his organisation’s key plans for the year and said:

“Over the last decade, Belfast has established itself as the engine room of the Northern Ireland tourism sector, generating between a quarter and half of all visitor trips, up to half of all guest accommodation arrivals and between a third and half of all tourism spend.

“Visit Belfast’s hard work, determination and a commitment to achieve, is already delivering a successful, flourishing tourism industry that befits the millions of pounds of investment which has been made and the world class facilities which Belfast now has. A key determinant of our success comes from working with our key partners in the private and public sector.”

Belfast is already recognised as a leading conference destination after winning a series of highly-coveted award and Belfast City Council’s recently-announced plans to expand the Belfast Waterfront as part of a major £29.5 million investment, is expected to contribute to this future growth, according to Visit Belfast.

Visit Belfast’s new Chair, David Gavaghan, said:

“Visit Belfast is optimistic about tourism prospects for the year ahead and we know that with a boost from the Giro d’Italia, the city is already off to a racing start.

“Against this backdrop, we are confident that through our collective efforts, Belfast can attract almost eight million visitors in 2014 – an important milestone and a target which all of us need to work hard to achieve.”

Earlier this month, Belfast was placed yet again in the Top 5 ‘best’ UK destinations in a survey carried out by the world’s largest online travel forum, TripAdvisor.

Visit Belfast is Belfast City Region’s official destination marketing and visitor-servicing organisation. Its main funders are Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, its 560 private sector members, and key strategic partners Translink, Diageo and Value Cabs.