Published Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Titanic Belfast celebrated half a million visitors during an event on Tuesday. (© Pacemaker)
On Tuesday, six months after the exhibition opened Lynda Price, the great-granddaughter of a shipyard worker, became the 500,000th visitor.
Mrs Price, who lives in Canada but was born in east Belfast, visited with her husband and son and said her family connection to the Titanic had led to her to the exhibition.
"It's a beautiful building," she said, adding that her son was very interested in the Titanic story.
"We really wanted to be part of this when we came. I had a great-grandfather who worked on the Titanic before it sailed."
Belfast Community Gospel Choir performed at the building, and Mrs Price was welcomed by the city's Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson.
She was presented with gifts, including a personally signed letter from Dr Robert Ballard, the Oceanographer who found Titanic 27 years ago this month.
Visitor numbers at the centre have exceeded the original annual forecast, which was set at 425,000 for the first six months.
People have come to Titanic Belfast from 11 countries around the world, including America, the United Arab Emirates, Nepal and Korea and the exhibition has given a boost to the local tourism economy.
Titanic Belfast CEO Tim Husbands said, "But it is not just about the numbers but also about the Titanic Belfast experience and the significant efforts that have gone in for almost a year before we opened, and since, to ensure that our visitors have a world class customer experience to match their expectations."
Howard Hastings, Chairman of Northern Ireland Tourist Board, said over 60% of visitors to the exhibition have been from outside the region.
"People who maybe up until this year could not have put Ireland on the map but had a love for the Titanic story and have found their way here to explore more.
"It's great for Northern Ireland tourism. We've been working this year on 'Our Time, Our Place' and so many people have bought into that.
"Obviously the Titanic festival at Easter really ignited people's imaginations for the Titanic story and our job was to repatriate that to Belfast and these numbers indicate that that's what we have managed to do," he explained.
Lord Mayor, Alderman Gavin Robinson, added that Belfast was reclaiming its part in the Titanic story.
"This year has been a truly great one for tourism in Belfast, and Titanic Belfast has undoubtedly been the centerpiece of that success.
"Now, the city that gave birth to the ship, and many others, proudly and rightfully has acknowledged her part in the tale, and Belfast City Council is proud to play it role in celebrating the achievement, commemorating the tragedy and educating the world about our city's role in the Titanic story."
© UTV News