Cruise Belfast – the partnership between Belfast Harbour and Visit Belfast – has opened the first dedicated cruise terminal on the island of Ireland to cater for Belfast’s growing popularity as a cruise destination.
Belfast Harbour has invested more than £500,000 on upgrading the quayside facility, which now includes a Visitor Information Centre, part funded by Tourism NI and managed by Visit Belfast. This investment represents an important step in the development of the city’s cruise tourism infrastructure. 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.
Joe O’Neill, Belfast Harbour’s CEO said:
“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 to a wide range of visitor attractions including the Giant’s Causeway, Hillsborough Castle, Mount Stewart and Titanic Belfast.
“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.”
John McGrillen, CEO Tourism Northern Ireland, 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.”
In the past three years there has been an 82% increase in the number of annual calls. Last year Cruise Critic named Belfast as one of the best cruise destinations in the British Isles and Western Europe and the Port is now the third most popular destination in the UK and Ireland for one-day cruise ship calls after Dublin and Orkney.
Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast added:
“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.
“This means that we can fully showcase the wealth of experiences on offer and enable cruise visitors to make the most of their time in Belfast and Northern Ireland.”
Northern Ireland’s cruise sector has continued to grow and this year Belfast Harbour is scheduled to welcome a record 148 calls from 35 different cruise lines. July will be the busiest month with 32 calls including SAGA’s first ever new build vessel, the ‘Spirit of Discovery’. ‘Disney Magic’ will also visit in September, bringing the globally recognised brand to Belfast for the first time.