Derry’s goal to become a global tourism destination looks on course as it emerged European visitor numbers have soared over the past year.
And the Journal can today reveal that a fleet of 11 cruise ships have already been secured for 2015- the best performance since the early 1990s, with more inquiries in for 2016.
European visitors coming to Derry have increased by 8% on the City of Culture year, with experts now agreeing that the city’s tourism sector is bucking the trend compared to other industries.
Aoife Thomas, business, leisure and tourism officer with Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau said 2013 has had a huge impact in securing Derry’s future as both a destination for cruise liners and as a host for major conferences.”
“The City of Culture combined with the Lonely Planet listing Derry as one of the top cities to visit has been amazing,” Ms Thomas said. “2015 will be a bumper year with 11 cruise ships worth about £500,000 to the local economy. We have a good mix from the UK, Gemrany, America.
“This is a very niche, demanding market, highly influenced by cultural attraction and we have devised a new protfolio of six experiences for passengers.”
She added that the cruise bonanza had been the result of two years hard work in conjunction with Foyle Port, with more local teams heading off to secure further business at trade fares and shows in Germany, Britain and the USA in the coming months.
Ms Thomas said 2013 was “an amazing for us in terms of conferencing, our bookings increased by about 30% and which generated around £5m. We really want to capitalise on that.”
She added: “Derry is still very much in in its infacy as a national and European conference destination and for us to secure such events gives us leverage going forward. We have a number of great bids for 2015-16 and we are working with ambassadors from the Western Health Trust and University of Ulster lecturers. 2013 has really motivated people.
“It is up to us now how we want to capitalise on these good news stories.”
Catherine Crawley, visitor services officer, said that 2014 was so far proving to be a busy year for the tourism sector.
“The European market is up 8% and the North America is more or less the same as 2013,” she said. “Since the City of Culture we have noticed that the profile and attention the city is getting has risen significantly. Having the big events back again has definitely helped.
“Whenever we go out to trade events more people are aware of Derry than would have been the case beforehand. Before there might have been people that have known about Derry for the wrong reasons and now more people know about it and for the right reasons.”