Belfast in National Geographic top 10 destinations

Belfast has been voted one of the world’s top destinations for 2012 by an international travel magazine.

The National Geographic Traveller called the city a “treasure” with an “incredible atmosphere”.

Next year is the centenary of the Titanic and Belfast City Council has just announced that the hugely popular Tall Ships will return in 2015.

Other locations on the magazine’s must see list are Iceland, north Columbia, the Volcanoes of Virunga and Oman.

The Titanic Centenary Commemorations are the next high profile event in Belfast, due to start in just a few months time.

When the Tall Ships last came to Belfast in August 2009 they attracted an estimated 800,000 visitors in the four days of the festival.

The National Geographic Traveller’s editor-in-chief, Keith Bellows, wrote of Belfast: “It was great, the food, the incredible atmosphere and don’t take this wrong, in many ways it reminded me of Cuba, what it was like there seven or eight years ago.

“I felt that this place was a treasure that had sort of been preserved, it hadn’t been trampled on by the big foot of tourism and so I really loved its purity.

“You look at where the energy spots are in the world and this is Belfast’s time.”

Particular mention was given to the Belfast Bred walking tour, performed by Kabosh Theatre Company who took Mr Bellows on an ingredient hunt, tracing Northern Ireland’s culinary heritage.

Michael Lavery is one of the actors involved in the tour, he plays the role of a resurrected chef of RMS Titanic.

“Its great for Belfast, to get mentioned by the National Geographic, its going to be an incredible year, there’s lots to see, this is such a fantastic city,” he said.

“I’ve learned so much by doing this, like the man who invented Milk of Magnesia came from Belfast. He lived in a wee house around the corner, so its great being able to point out things like that and see in people’s faces the reaction, but the Titanic year is going to blow them away, its going to be huge for us.”

The accolades don’t end there. The Financial Times has listed Belfast as one of the ‘Top 10 places in the world’ to hold a conference or major event.

The FT says significant investment in Belfast’s tourism, accommodation and transportation infrastructure secured the position as an international conference and events hub, putting us up there with Melbourne, London, Barcelona and Guadalajara.

Gerry Lennon is from Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau.

“This comes on the back of Trip Advisor saying Belfast is the best value UK city break and the Lonely Planet saying you had better get here before the rest of the world comes,” he said.

“This means that our image and reputation as a city break has been transformed, which means we are in a very good position coming into 2012, to capitalise on this.

“Basically though, nobody wakes up and thinks we’ve got to go to Belfast. We have to exploit these accolades, we’ve got to get out there and market our city because we are an excellent destination, we’re great value and now is the time to come to Belfast.”

Story by Natasha Sayee on BBC website 24/11/11.