BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- With hotel developments booming and
new investments in tourism infrastructure, Belfast is coming into
its own as a leisure and business travel destination.
One of the more obvious changes to the city is the newly opened
Belfast Welcome Center.
According to the Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau, the
center was designed as a one-stop-shop for business travelers and
Providing a range of services such as tourist information,
currency exchange, tour bookings and hotel reservations, the
facility also has a retail outlet, an Internet cafe, and space for
Gerry Lennon, chief executive of the bureau, said the city is now
competing effectively with other U.K. and European cities:
"This year promises to be the year Belfast consolidates its
position as credible tourism destination. The infrastructure, the
attractions and the sheer vibrancy of the city provide an
irresistible cocktail guaranteed to appeal to business and leisure
Investment in Belfast's infrastructure has seen a surge in the
last three years, with the arrival of new hotel brand names
including the 175-room Posthouse Premiere and a planned 140-room
Ramada opening this year.
Other established hotels have been adding rooms, such as the
Europa, which is now the biggest hotel in Northern Ireland, and the
Malone Lodge Hotel.
In 1999, the last year for which figures were released, 1
million day-trippers visited Belfast, while 490,000 visitors stayed
one or more nights in the city, boosting its economy by an
estimated $20 million.
Here's a roundup of important developments:Investment within Belfast's hotel sector has more than tripled
the number of hotel rooms in the last five years. In the last
several months, 248 rooms were added.
Forte Posthouse opened its four-star hotel in September. It
boasts a conference center along with 175 rooms.
Hastings Hotels invested about $17 million in the refurbishment
of its three Belfast properties, including the addition of 56
air-conditioned executive rooms to the Europa.
Malone Lodge Hotel added 17 rooms and new conference and meeting
Overall, hotel investment in the last three years and projected
over the next three years is estimated at almost $175 million.More than 100,000 conference delegate bednights are confirmed
for Belfast to date up to 2004.Belfast is working with the Port of Belfast to promote the city
as a cruise destination. Seven cruise ships, including three from
Holland America Line, docked in Belfast in 2000, bringing in 8,500
passengers. Seventeen ships have already confirmed Belfast as a
port of call for 2001.Phase One of the Odyssey opened last December. Comprising a
10,000-seat sports arena, it is home to the Belfast Giants ice
Phase Two, which will include an IMAX theater, a retail and
leisure pavilion featuring a Hard Rock Cafe and a Science Centre
operated by the Ulster Museum, will open in this spring. Once
completed, the Odyssey will be the biggest purpose-built sports
center in Ireland.The Linenhall Library, established in the 18th century to
provide a center for freedom of speech and information, underwent
an extensive refurbishment. The library, founded in 1788, was
expanded to include more space for collections, an events area and
a new reading room.
More information about Belfast is available on the Web at www.gotobelfast.com.