Evaluating Titanic Belfast

Published Tuesday, 10 April 2012
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Now that it's opened, it seems time for a quick assessment of Titanic Belfast.

Is it worth the almost £100m spent building the tourist attraction? Will it get the number of visitors it needs?

Will we be reading an indictment by the Audit Office in a few years criticising over ambitious targets and unrealistic expectations?

You could argue that already the building has proved its worth by attracting around 25,000 visitors in its first week.

But I would not want to defend the project on those grounds. My view is that the sceptics sort of miss the point.

If we are to have a proper tourist industry we need top class attractions which are not dependent on the weather.

Just cast your mind back to Sunday.

It was wet and cold - as uninviting as Irish weather can be. What on earth could you do to amuse yourself?

I'll tell you what we did. Walk in the rain along the beach from Dundrum to Newcastle where we had something to eat in the Slieve Donard.

Bracing and ultimately quite enjoyable despite the conditions. But who is going to travel across the world to take advantage of that experience?

Indoor attractions in our climate are a must. We don't nearly have enough of them.

Titanic Belfast was not an option for Northern Ireland. It was essential.

If we didn't build it or something like it, we could not be taken seriously as an international tourist destination.

If the venue takes longer than expected to pay for itself, that would be unfortunate but of itself does not constitute a reason for not building it.

In fact even if Titanic Belfast never covered its costs, I would still maintain that it was necessary.

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2 Comments
Gerry in Belfast wrote (762 days ago):
I’m most sure this has been discussed many times, and all due respect and sensitivity aside, I can’t help feeling that we are missing a fantastic opportunity to reinvigorate the economy by providing many thousands of private sector sustainable long term jobs. I suggest again the rebuilding locally of an exact replica of the world renowned Titanic vessel. Assumming the figures endorse the economic reasons for doing so, I cant imagine a better legacy for those and the families of those who sadly perished than a lasting tribute to the skill of the workers of the era, by building a replica of titanic over the next two or three years. This legacy would surely provide a better future for all of the people. I think an announcement alone would creat huge global interest. My own vision of this is that such a replica should never sail (unlike the current and previous proposals) and should be berthed permanently in Belfast, within the confines of the Belfast harbour area, to be visited by people of every nation for generations to come. It should be built by Harland and Wolff. Of course the cost to achieve such a remarkable feat would be huge similar to the new Titanic building and public private partnership or similar may be the way to go. The economic spin off for this economy would be repaid immeasurable times over. Not only do I consider the local jobs in ship building, engineering and many other industries but the tourism income would be huge which would bring the natural private investment we so badly need. I believe the service sector would achieve unprecedented growth with more hotels, retailers, restaurants etcetera picking up the natural demand a huge tourism industry/ economy delivers. Build it and they will come. I note the fantastic titanic building just delivered and what better way to ensure its long term survival (plus that of Belfast) than a permanent queue at the door. Many other countries rely on tourism as the backbone of their economy and are often subject to seasonal trade. A shipbuilding/tourist attraction project of this nature and magnitude would not be influenced by seasons to some degree. I, like many, have visited many sights around the world simply because they have the eye catching attraction (be it building, monument, culture or geography) known to everyone and Titanic is, without doubt, the most famous the world has ever encountered. Our Eiffel Tower I can imagine the replica being the museum and hotel it may need to be with global corporations holding their annual gala conferences aboard the ship for years to come and the tourists paying their dollar or yen to simply walk on board. The overseas income this replica would generate to the whole of the economy may be absolutely immense.
Fran in Belfast wrote (855 days ago):
I took the Titanic tour last week and would agree that it is a world-class attraction, which is what Belfast badly needed. My experience was both good and bad. I was there on a Saturday and felt like I was part of a cattle herd being taken through the various sections of the museum at speed, my ears buzzing with the crowd's noise and my head spinning. So many amazing things to stop and see, so little space to breathe and take them in. On reflection, I thought this was one of the most beautiful museums I've seen and felt very proud to live in the city that hosts it. I just wish I could be allowed a private visit when it's empty! Back to your point though. Yes, the museum is worth it and does attract tourists, but only the ones who are brave enough to take our second class transportation system from the airports in their stride.
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Jamie Delargy
Jamie Delargy

Jamie Delargy is UTV's Business Editor with a keen eye on local and global economic issues.

A Cambridge Philosophy graduate, Jamie had a brief spell in teaching before launching his career in journalism. In his spare time he enjoys a spot of tennis and is an avid reader.

His favourite saying is "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

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