Derry has cemented its reputation as the number one Hallowe’en destination in the world, with visitor numbers at this year’s festivities soaring above expectations.
Official figures now show that around 120,000 people have taken part in the celebrations, which included the huge turnouts for ‘Awakening The Walls’ and the Carnival Parade and Fireworks display on Wednesday night last. Over 40,500 people took part in events on Hallowe’en night alone.
Jacqueline Whoriskey, Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Festival Events Manager said the city’s growing reputation as the place to be for Hallowe’en, bolstered by international accolades and coverage, has help attract visitors from across Ireland, Britain and far beyond.
Ms. Whoriskey, who was at the helm of organising the festival, praised all those involved in making it such a success, including local people.
“We have always said, Hallowe’en starts and ends with people themselves. Everybody here owns it,” she said.
“We had 830 in the parade, most of which are local people from the community who have been working on costumes and props for weeks and months in advance.”
Hotels and B&B’s across Derry were booked to capacity for Hallowe’en night, with many restaurants, pubs and traders getting a boost. Ms. Whoriskey said the festival looked well on course to hit, if not surpass, the target of converting every £1 of the £325k spent on the festival into at least a three fold return for the local economy.
“Last year we had 95,000 taking part. Our target was 100,000 visitors this year and we are delighted to have surpassed that,” Jacqueline added.
Local people outdid themselves this year with many ingenious home-made costumes on show including legions of skeletons, superheroes, witches, undead newly weds, clowns, mermaids, pirates, monks, nuns, werewolves and even a family set of Crayola crayons swooping on the city centre.
And Aeidin McCarter, Council’s Head of Culture said the record numbers who attended the celebrations was a ringing endorsement of the extension of this year’s festival.
“We have been overwhelmed by the numbers of visitors for our events, we have seen in excess of 20,000 people per night coming out for the Awakening the Walls Trail.
“This year’s nine day programme was our most ambitious yet, it takes months of work on the ground to host an event of this magnitude but it is extremely rewarding for our all our council teams when the public give their backing to the programme by attending in such large numbers.
“Our headline attractions such as Spark and Awakening the Walls again proved a massive hit and the family entertainment and storytelling at all our venues were equally successful.
“The programme runs right into this weekend with the ‘Museum of the Moon’ in the Guildhall until Friday and the ‘Haunted Harvest Market’ in Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place running until Saturday.”
To help spread the world for next year’s Hallowe’en, 24 international travel writers, bloggers and Instagrammers were invited to the city for the festival as guests of Tourism Ireland, Tourism NI and Visit Derry.
The group – from Britain, the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Denmark and India – has a combined audience of millions of readers and followers around the world.
The group took part in a guided walk of the city’s historic walls and visits to the Tower Museum and the Guildhall. They also watched the annual street carnival parade and got dressed up for the Hallowe’en Ball.
Siobhan McManamy from Tourism Ireland said: “Publicity is an important element of Tourism Ireland’s overall promotional programme, helping to raise awareness through the media around the world of the many things to see and do on holiday in Northern Ireland.”
Mayor of Derry and Strabane John Boyle, who got into the Hallowe’en spirit with a ghoulish make-over of his own for the occasion, said: “The record breaking attendance and the fact that hotels are booked to full capacity all week justifies our campaign to market the celebrations as an international event and underlines our reputation as the Hallowe’en capital of the world.”