There’s a clear sense of expectation surrounding the opening later this year of the £90m Titanic Building in Belfast — not just around the spectacular exhibition space highlighting the sinking of that famous liner in April 1912 but also around the tourism potential of this grand initiative.
Indeed, we may be facing a tipping point in tourism in 2012 with the fabulous Mac arts building about to open in the city centre and with the wraps about to come off the long-awaited Giants Causeway visitor centre.
The question, however, is how many of the small businesses, restaurants and retailers who might hope to benefit from this tourism bonanza will actually be around to enjoy it?
For, on this, the 200th anniversary of the Lisburn Road itself, there seems to be no let-up in the grinding recession, which continues to bear down on indigenous businesses.
That said, help may be on hand in the form of an innovative masterplan for the Lisburn Road which has been drawn up by local urban planning and architectural firm, Paperclip.
Under their dramatic proposals, the Lisburn Road would enjoy a rebirth with four zones stretching from Stockmans Lane to the City Hospital and embracing education, recreation and retailing.
Paperclip envisage a road which would be renowned not just for its vibrant shopping offering but also as the ‘greenest’ road in Ireland and as a hub of Internet connectivity.
At its heart would be a restored Drumglass Park at Cranmore where the disused bandstand would give way to a new pavilion.
If 2012 is to prove a tourism tipping point for the city of Belfast, it will take this type of inspired thinking to make sure the entire city community benefits from the predicted influx of tourism to coincide with this Titanic opportunity.