A new report has shown that West Belfast welcomed record number of tourists this year.
Figures recorded for 2019 thus far have shown at least 2 million visitor trips in this part of the city.
Research commissioned by West Belfast tourism body Fáilte Feirste Thiar shows a dramatic increase in people visiting our local attractions, which have helped generate millions for the city’s economy.
The staggering tourism data represents an almost 50 per cent visitor increase since 2017 when over 1 million vistor trips were recorded.
Fáilte Feirste Thiar Executive Director, Harry Connolly, said the record numbers were indicative of the “world class” attractions on offer in West Belfast.
“Two million visitors have engaged with our established, world class visitor attractions and that includes the Coiste Political Walking Tours, Black Taxi Tours, people downloading the mural map and discovering the our murals by themselves, or visiting the new James Connolly Visitor Centre,” he said.
“West Belfast also offers an urban and rural mix, where people can go to the Bog Meadows and the Belfast Hills or they can go to the city and see what our community has to offer.”
He added: “The off-season in West Belfast used to be a lot longer, but that’s shortening and it shows that we are now a year-round destination.”
Amongst this year’s tourism highlights were the opening of the new James Connolly Visitor Centre and the annual Féile an Phobail, which welcomed the world to West Belfast with hundreds of events including Michael Conlan’s headline bout in the Falls Park.
While celebrating our culture and heritage, Mr Connolly said that the hospitality and tourism industry now employs 3,000 local people, who are boosting “regeneration”.
“This is 3,000 homes, families and jobs sustained, which is enormous,” he said.
“When we were established we wanted to ensure that tourism was part of the overall programme for social and economic regeneration.
“You can really see now how tourism is having a very positive and profound impact on social and economic development of West Belfast.”
Not content to rest on their laurels, Fáilte Feirste Thiar are already looking to 2020 with the aim of bringing even more tourists to the area.
“As we approach 2020, we believe that we have a firm foundation in place to make sure that West Belfast’s potential is realised,” Harry enthused.
“What will help us achieve that is new world class transformational projects. In 2020, we look forward to seeing the development of the Roddy McCorley Society Museum and interactive visitor’s centre.
“Of course, in the early part of 2020 we hope to see permission granted to allow Casement Park to be granted, which will be an absolute game-changer.
“We see the continued growth of Féile an Phobail, we hope to have Michael Conlan back in the Falls Park to win a world title, and we look forward to the enormous event that will be.”
Commenting on the latest figures, outgoing West Belfast MP and Fáilte Feirste Thiar Chairperson, Paul Maskey, said: “When you look at the numbers it’s absolutely phenomenal.
“Other parts of this city are now looking at West Belfast to learn and to see what lessons they can take from it moving forward.
“Fáilte Feirste Thiar is engaging with organisations in other parts of the city to help them do that.
“Tourism is vitally important for our economy in West Belfast and it is sustaining many jobs in the area, and that includes restaraunts, shops, bars and clubs.”
He added: “We want to increase those numbers in the time ahead, and it is our job to do that.”