Photo: Belfast Harbour
Cruise Belfast, a partnership between the Belfast Harbour port authority and the tourism promotion agency Visit Belfast, has kicked off the operations of a cruise terminal in the Northern Irish port.
Belfast Harbour has invested more than £500k in upgrading the quayside which now includes a Visitor Information Centre, part funded by Tourism Northern Ireland and managed by Visit Belfast. "The new terminal is staffed by Visit Belfast's travel advisors and utilises the latest digital and audio-visual technology to showcase Belfast and Northern Ireland's visitor attractions. The newly developed site includes the space required to service the shore side activities associated with cruise tourism for coaches, shuttle buses and taxis, and a berth which has been dredged to accommodate newer and larger cruise ships," a press release from Belfast Harbour read.
"Cruise calls to Belfast are now up to 148 calls in 2019, an increase of 31% on last year and this investment in a terminal facility will enable us to offer the anticipated 285,000 cruise visitors a positive welcome and first impression of the region. The new terminal will provide the first dedicated facilities for cruise ships on the island, allowing visitors to quickly connect to Belfast city centre or join one of the many organised excursions tours to a wide range of visitor attractions including the Giant's Causeway, Hillsborough Castle, Mount Stewart and Titanic Belfast," Joe O'Neill, CEO, Belfast Harbour, commented.
He furthered, "In addition to help attract more visitors, we've also invested in new gangways and luggage scanners which will enable us to market Belfast as an embarkation port. Depending on the level of demand locally, this opens up the exciting opportunity for local consumers to join cruises directly from Belfast instead of flying to Southampton or other regional ports. Cruise & Maritime has already scheduled a number of departures from Belfast for next summer including Norwegian Fjord and British Isles itineraries. In line with our sustainability ambitions we have also installed wind powered quay lighting for the site and a 'smart flower' which will generate solar electricity for the terminal building."
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane, added to this, "Cruise tourism has been one of the city's success stories of the last decade and has become an important part of our tourism mix, contributing significantly to the local economy through attractions, transport providers and retail. I welcome the investment made by Belfast Harbour and Tourism Northern Ireland in Belfast's new cruise terminal and look forward to welcoming increasing numbers of cruise visitors to Belfast and beyond. We're renowned around the world for our warm welcome and these new facilities will enable us to make the best of first impressions."
John McGrillen, CEO, Tourism Northern Ireland, also said, "Cruise ship visitors contribute footfall to our visitor attractions and provide an opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland to international visitors, many of whom are here for the first time. Allowing cruise passengers to sample Northern Ireland also provides an effective strategy to encourage and generate repeat visits. Our investment in this gateway information centre is part of our growth framework which will support our overall ambition to double the value of tourism to Northern Ireland by 2030."
Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive, Visit Belfast, underlined, "Globally, cruise tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in tourism. From a standing start of just two ships in the late Nineties, we are now welcoming 285,000 cruise visitors to our shores. This has been down to the sales and marketing efforts of Cruise Belfast and the significant investments in our tourism offering."Princess Cruises' Crown Princess officially opened the cruise terminal on 29 July.