Betting On Belfast: EU Helps Suits And Hoteliers Spur City Growth
Belfast has long been known as a violent city, plagued by anger on the part of separatists rebelling against Britain’s control. But in the last few years, the city has worked to encourage new business and lure tourists to change its image. In December 2007, IKEA opened a store in Belfast and recently, local airline easyJet added an early morning flight from Britain’s Gatwick airport to cater to business travelers. But enterprise growth isn’t the only allure. The European Union is pushing growth in region, both for locals by creating more jobs, and for tourists, by pushing for peace and development.
Premier Inn announced plans to open the Belfast City Centre hotel in Sept. 2008. Meanwhile, Marriott International is focusing on all types of visitors with its recent announcement that it will open an 169-room Courtyard by Marriott in 2010. This follows InterContinental’s move into the area when the Express by Holiday Inn Antrim opened in June 2007 under the management of Glasgow’s BDL Hotel Group. This is not surprising given the dramatic rise in property value over the last few years.
The influx of hoteliers betting on the growth of the northern city, which like many still have a great deal of violence, is not coming out of thin air. The European Union’s Danuta Hübner, the European Commissioner for Regional Policy, visited Belfast on April 14 to announce three investment programs that aim to help the city grow, establish peace and create more jobs by 2013. The three programs funded by the European Regional Development Fund are: Northern Ireland Regional Competitiveness and Employment, Peace III, and Cross-Border: Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland. The city is also getting €165.7 million from a labor market program and €171 million from a rural development program.
May through September is a great time to visit Belfast because there are many events, including the Belfast City Marathon on May 5; the Belfast Children’s Festival May 23 – June 3; the International Holywood Jazz Festival June 7-8; June 27-29, to catch both the maritime festival and the city carnival; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) pride week July 26-August 2; or the Belfast Food and Drink Festival which runs throughout September.
For more information, visit the official tourism site.
According to the official tourism site for Belfast, direct flights are available from the U.S. via Continental Airlines from Newark and from Canada via Zoom from Toronto.