Over 140,000 visitors have made the most of Visit Belfast’s new city centre tourist information centre since Easter, up nearly a quarter (23%)  on the same period last year, reflecting another buoyant tourism season in Belfast.

Part of Belfast City Council’s wider £150m Investment Programme, the £1.82m Visit Belfast Welcome Centre has established itself as the first-stop-shop for visitors to the city as well as locals wanting to know what’s on and book tickets for a wide range of events.

The growing number of visitors and the success in hosting global events such as the Giro saw numbers through the door leap by 55% in May and thousands of cruise passengers have made their way into the centre too, many making the most of the free-wifi, with 20 ships out of 62 docking in Belfast in August alone.

Tourism has become an increasingly important industry for Belfast, supporting tens of thousands of jobs.  Providing state-of-the-art visitor information services is central to the Council’s commitment to support the tourism industry in maximising its contribution to the city’s economy.

Chair of Belfast City Council’s Development Committee, Councillor Deirdre Hargey welcomed the strong summer performance:

“Investing in the latest technologies to deliver 21st century visitor information truly reflects the vibrant, contemporary, must-see destination Belfast has become,”

“Belfast City Council is committed to driving the city’s tourism development further, with ongoing investment into one of our biggest growth sectors. This Visit Belfast Welcome Centre is an integral part of that development, using new technology to great effect, so it’s great to see visitors and locals making the most of the facilities to enrich their stay in the city.”

Touch screens, interactive maps and information islands have enhanced the more traditional tourist brochures and leaflets, as well as the face-to-face service provided by the visitor information advisors.   Visitors are using the screens to find out more about what to see and do with attractions such as the Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Quarter, Belfast Zoo and the Ulster Museum in the top 5 searches.

Visit Belfast’s Chief Executive, Gerry Lennon, acknowledged the need to invest in technology in marketing the city internationally as well as providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information as possible:

“The Visit Belfast Welcome Centre reflects the changing information needs of our global visitors and how they use technology to inform and enhance their visit.  Although the personal welcome of our visitor advisors remains core, the new digital information points, video story-telling and free wi-fi have proved a huge draw.” he said.

“On-line technology enables us to embrace a ‘best-in-class’ approach to visitor servicing, ensuring that visitors see more, experience more and enjoy more.

“These technologies increase our capacity in meeting the demands of a growing number of tourists coming to Belfast and enable Visit Belfast to link our marketing efforts with visitor information more seamlessly.  Through the development of our website and utilising social media platforms we’ve seen a 40% increase in online traffic to visit-belfast.com this year alone.”

The centre’s central location across from City Hall, has proven to be a success with City’s event organisers and tour operators as the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre box office has sold in excess of 43,000 tickets to date.

Much of Visit Belfast’s success has been down to the its public-private sector partnerships and the continued support of its members, the wider tourism industry and its strategic partners Diageo Northern Ireland, Translink and Value Cabs.

Jorge Lopes, Country Director for Diageo Northern Ireland and Visit Belfast’s longest corporate sponsor added:

“Diageo Northern Ireland recognise a flourishing tourism and hospitality industry provides a great range of benefits for the city and Northern Ireland as a whole.

We’re delighted to support Visit Belfast and the development of the city’s tourism and hospitality offering and are proud to support Belfast City Council and Visit Belfast in its delivery of such fantastic facilities.”

Visit Belfast is a public-private sector partnership, representing over 560 tourism businesses it is funded by Belfast City Council and supported by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, and four regional councils, Newtownabbey, North Down, Lisburn and Antrim.

Visit Belfast represents member businesses from the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors and is the tourism marketing agency responsible for promoting Belfast regionally, nationally and internationally as a leading city break, day-trip, conference and cruise destination.