Published Thursday, 30 January 2014
The Waterfront Hall extension plans were unveiled on Thursday morning. (© Presseye)
The two-storey extension will double the size of the conferencing space at the venue, enabling Belfast to compete internationally as a leading convention destination.
The project aims to attract 50,000 conference delegates to the city annually, doubling the current figure.
It is hoped that an average of six national large association conferences will be held there per annum by 2020.
The proposed expansion includes a new entrance at the rear of the venue on the River Lagan, the creation of over 2,000 square metres of exhibition space, banqueting facilities for up to 750 and five breakout rooms each capable of holding 200 people.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster announced that she had approved £18.5m of funding on Thursday morning.
Funding for the initiative is being provided under the Northern Ireland Tourist Board's Tourism Development Scheme, with £4.1m from its core capital budget and £14.4m from European Regional Development funding through the EU Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.
Belfast City Council is providing match funding of £11m for the project, which is expected to be completed by December 2015, bringing the total to £29.5m.
The DUP Minister said: "Business tourism has been identified as a key growth area for the economy over the next ten years and this new extension to Belfast Waterfront will ensure our conference facilities are a competitive alternative to the rest of the UK and Europe.
"The benefit of hosting business conferences extends right across the hospitality, retail and tourism sectors."
"When complete, I am sure the fantastic new facilities will leave visitors with a positive lasting impression of Northern Ireland," Minister Foster concluded.
Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: "This is great news for both tourism and the economy, following on the heels of the newly opened Visit Belfast Welcome Centre.
"It will also provide employment opportunities with up to 400 construction jobs created during the building phase and the contract will include social clauses to provide placement opportunities for the unemployed, apprentices, students and trainees."
© UTV News