Garbhan Downey - The forecast for 2013 - never busier

Employment and Learning Minster Stephen Farry, pictured with Garvin Kerr, Derry city tours, Fergal Rafferty, Foyleside Shopping Centre, and Hugh McDaid, chairperson, Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau, during a world host training day seminar at the Everglades Hotel. (1603SL08)
Employment and Learning Minster Stephen Farry, pictured with Garvin Kerr, Derry city tours, Fergal Rafferty, Foyleside Shopping Centre, and Hugh McDaid, chairperson, Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau, during a world host training day seminar at the Everglades Hotel. (1603SL08)

It’s a dangerous business predicting the future, but there’s a growing confidence right across the city that 2013 is going to be our busiest year ever.

At a packed Culture Company meeting for Derry’s business community at the Everglades Hotel last week, every statistic and trend pointed to major growth in our tourism and hospitality sectors.

Derry Visitor & Convention Bureau reported a huge increase in tourists already, including a rise of 31 percent from the Republic of Ireland alone last year. In 2013, an additional 100 percent rise in tourists on this year is expected.

Culture Company’s own projections are pointing that way too; provisional figures suggest that up to 110,000 visitors a month could come here next year, with a huge spike expected during August for the Fleadh.

And while it’s still early days, and it’s important not to raise expectations, the tourism sector does look well on course to meet the targets set out in our City of Culture bid three years ago.

It’s also comforting to know that the hospitality sector here is readying itself for the charge. Besides considering proposals for up to nine new hotels (not all for 2013) which would double our existing bed-space, the Council is also looking at other alternatives to cope with the expected rush.

Four sites are currently being considered for camping, caravanning and ‘glamping’ – at Foyle Valley Railway, St Columb’s Park, Prehen Playing Fields and Ballyarnett. (Glamping is luxury camping, by the way – and no, I didn’t know either.)

Other options being pursued are to encourage locals with empty houses or space to rent, to apply for NITB-certification. It takes between six and eight weeks to get certified – and the premises don’t have to be graded.

Accommodation specialist Deirdre Harte told the Everglades gathering that she was confident visitors will return in numbers after our City of Culture year into 2014 and beyond. That was certainly the experience for Liverpool and Glasgow after their European Capital of Culture years.

And even if Derry’s capacity should fall a little short next year, we can take heart from Council figures which show that there are 7,500 bed-spaces within 30 miles of the city, and 14,400 within a 60 mile radius.

Finally, you can be assured that the city will fully dressed for its year in the sun, so promises Council marketing chief, Claire Lundy. The dressing strategy, which includes everything from banners to signage, begins later this month with the complete rebranding of the DVCB building on Foyle Street and will continue through until the autumn.

Read more from Garbhan in the Journal every Friday