Northern Ireland

Belfast sails ahead of rivals as cruise sector prospers

cruise ships
Image caption The port of Belfast will host a record 89 ships this year

Belfast is on the up as a cruise ship destination.

This year, it will outperform cities like Liverpool and Cork and two ships in one day is not uncommon - in 1999, that was the total for the entire year.

In 2017, the port will host a record 89 ships and recent, accelerated growth in the market has come despite delays in building a £15m cruise terminal.

However, it is worth stating that the 155,000 visitors they bring to Northern Ireland are day-trippers.

'Welcome boost'

Therefore, spend could be viewed as relatively nominal, compared to those on short or long-term breaks, as the vessels sail in and out in one day.

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Media captionIn 2017, Belfast will host a record 89 ships

As a proportion of Northern Ireland's overall tourism market, their number would equate to only about 6% of total external visitors.

Nonetheless, they provide a welcome boost to local attractions and coach operators.

Titanic Belfast, Giants Causeway, Hillsborough Castle and Mount Stewart are all said to hold "significant appeal" to cruise visitors.

Image caption The former shipyard provides a fitting backdrop for a cruise terminal

As a cruise destination, the city is promoted in a partnership arrangement between Visit Belfast and Belfast Harbour.

They say the port can easily handle more cruise traffic and there is "no limitation" on the number of vessels that it can accommodate alongside cargo ships.

Plans for a dedicated cruise terminal, first proposed in 2013, have not been abandoned, but there have been major hold-ups.

Liverpool has a dedicated terminal beside its Royal Liver building.

Nevertheless, Belfast is still doing better - its 89 ships this year compares to Liverpool's 63.

Cruise tourism is a fast-growing sector and Belfast, with its rich maritime history, is determined not to be left behind.

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