Days have gone since being the tourism supremo for Belfast or the Northern Ireland Tourist Board was stock comedy content. Yesterday I joined a group of notable media people in a fashionable Belfast hotel. The agenda of the meeting was re-branding Belfast as a destination.
Belfast has got a fantastic amount going for it. Much of that is the recent history – but as one person put it "What do you do after you have your photo taken beside one of the murals?" Here are some examples. That question can be extended to "… especially on a Sunday?" a time that Belfast becomes a limbo. There is the Industrial History – a lot of people want to see where the Titanic was built.
There is the cultural city – oddly not many tourists know about that.
Some cities are known by one icon; Paris has the Eiffel Tower (big and impressive) Copenhagen has the Little Mermaid (have you ever see it – it is very very little – I felt cheated). Belfast has Sampson and Goliath – now they are big and impressive and there are two of them. There is a fantastic view from the top. But getting up there is a big problem.
Should the Belfast Brand be about the future rather than the past? Is there an annual event – or annual events? If not what should they be?
Re-branding Belfast is no longer a joke – it’s a serious business with serious people thinking about it. Where to start?
Like many people who live and work in the city, I’d start with the taxi service. All I want to be able to do sometimes is walk onto the street and hail one. On Tuesday standing outside the Royal Hospital for more than half an hour waiting for a taxi "It’ll be there in 10 minutes" gave me time to think about the next day’s lunch about tourism in Belfast – it was pretty obvious to me what would enhance the visitor experience.