City set for Backin Belfast support

Published Tuesday, 22 January 2013
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A major marketing campaign to help revitalise Belfast's nightlife is to be rolled out in an effort to turn around businesses badly hit by the ongoing flag dispute.

City set for Backin Belfast support
The campaign aims to boost Belfast's hospitality sector. (© UTV)

Bodies representing the hospitality and retail sectors, which employ up to 35,000 people in Northern Ireland, met with Executive Ministers on Tuesday to call for their support for the 'Backin Belfast' campaign.

They are seeking to secure close to £1m from Belfast City Council and the Executive.

Campaigners say they are aiming to counter the impact of disruption attributed to flag protests, which they say have diverted shoppers and revellers from the city over the past two months.

It has been estimated that £15m was lost in trade over Christmas, with some pubs reporting trade down as much as 50%.

At least 50 jobs have already been lost across 16 premises, with a further 300 at risk.

It has been a very difficult time for the industry in Belfast, but the time has come to remind people that the city is very much open for business.

Colin Neill, Pubs of Ulster Chief Executive

But counter-campaigns such as Backin Belfast and 'Operation Sit In' that began on social media have urged the public to get out and enjoy themselves while supporting the hospitality industry.

"We have been greatly encouraged by the level of support we received today and we welcome all discussions focused on providing immediate support for the Belfast business community," the industry representatives said in a statement.

"Each Minister has stepped up to the plate and vowed to look at ways to help traders and retailers get through this difficult time. We have made significant progress and a number of options are currently being explored, including a commitment to provide an immediate marketing campaign and mechanisms to help cash flow for businesses worst affected.

"Overall, it is clear that there is a shared commitment to urgently helping the local business community, and this is something that we will continue to drive forward."

Proprietors across the city have pledged their support for Backin Belfast and will be offering special incentives and deals to help attract customers.

The campaign will rely heavily on a marketing boost and social media.

Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau, said: "This campaign will help to promote Belfast for what it is - a fantastic place with the finest hospitality, a great retail offering and an unbeatable choice of visitor attractions and entertainment venues.

"Our businesses want everyone out and in the city, supporting 'Backin Belfast' campaign. We've plenty to offer - and plenty on offer - let's get out there and enjoy it."

He claimed that many have already engaged with the #backinbelfast hashtag, with already "1.2 million tweets".

Stephen Magorrian, Chair of the bureau and Managing Director at Botanic Inns, which own 15 bars in Belfast, said: "Thousands of people and their families rely on Belfast's hospitality, entertainment and retail businesses for employment, to sustain livelihoods as well as contributing to our local economy.

He said the campaign was already having a positive influence.

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"I was very encouraged by Saturday night, I was out on Saturday night and Friday night, there were a lot of people in the city saying to me that they came in because of the campaign," he said.
© UTV News
Comments Comments
32 Comments
Tomy Atkins in London, England wrote (573 days ago):
First it was the rope works, the shpyard and aircraft factory. Thenthe linen factories, Last one just closed) the shirt and carpet factory. Now the stores on Victoria square. But at least you still have your parades and protest and the price of the pint may fall Hey folks watch out for those drifting tumble weeds
Tommy Atkins in London, England wrote (573 days ago):
Yeah thats the answer to all the woes in N reland. Put the flag UP and the pint prices DOWN nd "Presto all is well!"
JoeMcC in Belfast wrote (574 days ago):
Well said Fed up Protestant.Life is short.
Joe McC in Belfast wrote (574 days ago):
Throwing vast amounts of money at a dead horse will not bring that horse back to life.People with a perceived loyalist annoyance will always be allowed to hold the rest of us to ransome.The media go out of their way to interview kiddyboys who roll their "Rs",and ignore the tax and rate paying non violent public who sign off their dole money.Michael Deane may have taken a hit on his overpriced chips and multinationals forced to lower their dividends,but the in yer face fact remains.Paddy and Sammy public are the real losers in this nonsense.Unelectable idiots are now the cut and thrust of what passes for democracy in NI plc.I feel sorry for poor old Matt Baggott.Caught between a rock and a hard place.I feel sorry for any Nationalist caught up in poor Matt's quandry,cracked heads and super arrests and loyalism happy again.Same as it ever was.
Tommy Atkins in London, England wrote (575 days ago):
David who mentioned anything about drinkers in Britain drinking less or more. No one but yourself David. Seems like you went into a defencive mode very quickly David if you can afford to pay all your bills and go out drinking then do so. After all you worked for it didn't you?. However if one clamours for reducing the price of alcohol instead of the main essentials in life then there is smething blatantly wrong. So what would you and our posters say to those in society who dont drink, but would love to give their children more in life. I know that I would like to see essentials drop in price E G petrol Food ETC ETC before booze
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