Belfast’s buoyant cruise business has delivered a boost to the local economy after a record-breaking summer season. In 2012, a total of 44 cruise ship arrivals brought close to 75,000 passengers and crew to the city and its world-famous Titanic port as part of the ‘Cruise Belfast’ marketing partnership between Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau (BVCB) and Belfast Harbour.
One of the last of the giant ships to arrive in Belfast, was the 290-metre-long 3,100-passenger Emerald Princess which berthed on Sunday. The final cruise liner of the 2012 season is this week's Amadea, with 900 passengers and crew.
Since the first cruise ship docked in 1996, a total of more than half a million passengers and crew have sailed into Belfast Harbour to explore a city famous for its rich maritime heritage.
Tony McAuley from Belfast Harbour said “Year-on-year, we are building the cruise business, and 2012 has delivered a record number of ships to the port. Breaking the 500,000 cruise visitor barrier is a fantastic achievement and testament to the efforts of Belfast Harbour and Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau working together."
"The opening of the £76m Titanic Belfast and the new Visitors Centre at Giant’s Causeway earlier this year together with the associated 2012 cultural programming and events created a focus and impact for our sales and marketing activity. Titanic is a global brand and the iconic building on the very site that the world famous luxury liner was designed, built and launched has had significant impact on our marketing activities and attracting international visitors to Belfast."
Belfast’s success in ensuring the city is scheduled as a stopover on some of Northern Europe’s biggest cruise itineraries – 17 cruise lines have included Belfast in their ship’s itineraries this year - is the result of the sales and marketing by ‘Cruise Belfast’ in the US, German, French and GB markets. Work is already underway to attract and secure cruise ships for 2014/15.
Anne McMullan from BVCB said "Cruise travel globally is one of the fastest growing and highly competitive areas of tourism and the record-breaking cruise ship numbers arriving in Belfast is testament to the city's tourism success. Already we have over 50 ships scheduled for 2013, bringing over 100,000 visitors to the city, this also coincides with the year that Belfast hosts the World Police and Fire Games which will bring an estimated 25,000 visitors coming to Belfast. “Cruise ships are now a vital part of our tourism mix and a visible measure of Cruise Belfast's success in attracting cruise ship business to Belfast. We are now competing effectively among other European destinations, demonstrating that the billion pound investment made in the city's tourism infrastructure, improving the experience for residents and visitors alike, and attracting world class events, is now paying off."
The port of Belfast acts as a gateway city to the rest of Northern Ireland - the range of tourist attractions that are within a short coach trip of the port, including the Giants Causeway, Mount Stewart, St Patrick’s Country have supported the interest from cruise operators and are also seeing the benefits of increasing cruise business -Belfast's tourism success is Northern Ireland's success also.
Tony McAuley from Belfast Harbour concluded: "The ongoing investment by Belfast Harbour in its port-side facilities provides a platform for the wider NI economy to benefit. We are delighted to be an integral part of Belfast's successful tourism industry and to work with BVCB in further developing and maximising the opportunities for cruise tourism to Belfast and Northern Ireland.”