What if?

By | Category: Travel destinations

If there had been no Game of Thrones over the last few years would tourism numbers in Northern Ireland be as rosy as they now look? If the Titanic had no met an untimely end would a shipbuilding area bas popular a tourist destination instead?

Titanic Belfast - biggest tourist attraction in Belfast
Titanic Belfast

The short answer to both questions isn’t the one you might expect. The answer is that it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that since the troubles ended. Northern Ireland has made the best of what it has and served to visitors a rich reason for going there.

Last year spending in Northern Ireland by tourists reached, it is estimated, about £968 million. There were about five million overnight visits and the trend continues on the up. It looks as though this year the magic £1 billion figure might be reached, a figure that the last Northern Ireland government wanted reached in 2020. Tourism officials will probably manage that and all without the help of politicians.

Where they have been helped is by the appeal of the Titanic, the Giant’s Causeway and the enormous success of Game of Thrones. What that series has done is not just to attract tourists to one particular place in the province but to a number of them and thus it has opened the eyes of visitors to what previously had not been popular visitor destinations.

The marketing have Titanic Belfast has been widespread making it into one of the most popular destinations in the UK, Yes the Titanic is an alluring attraction just as a name but without the effort put behind the promotion would it be as popular? There are other Titanic memorials but they don’t attract as many visitors.

There are lots of other attractions in the province not the least of which is the Ulster Museum with its unique take on the troubles. It would be a hard-hearted person not to be moved by the tales that permanent exhibition tells.

The combination of these reasons has helped the tourism numbers. That 128 cruise ships docked in the province last year is testimony to the popularity of Northern Ireland. Compare that to thirty years ago when few tourists ventured there.

The next target for the tourist authority must surely be to attract more tourists from places other than the province, the rest of the UK and Ireland. Only 16% of tourists come from outside these areas. With more routes into Europe by Ryanair and ongoing talks with other airlines, that percentage will probably grow over the next few years.

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