Monday, April 9, 2012

Northern Ireland pinning hopes on Titanic resurgence

A century after the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage, Belfast is counting on a new visitor attraction about the iconic ship to put the city that built it back on the tourist map.
A man looks at a photograph taken by Frank Browne, showing the Titanic, departing Queentown shortly after 1.55pm on April 11, 1912. The photograph, believed to be the last taken of the ship, is on display at the newly built Titanic visitor center in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The Northern Irish capital hopes the Titanic Belfast complex will entice holidaymakers to spend time -- and, crucially, money -- in the British province.
Three decades of sectarian violence lasting until the late 1990s made Northern Ireland a no-go area for foreign visitors. The city is hoping the attraction will give a much-needed boost to its tourism economy.
With its wider economy still lagging behind the rest of the United Kingdom following the misery of the Troubles, Northern Ireland is once again looking to Titanic to drive its prosperity forward -- just as it did 100 years ago.
"For many years we have been promoting Belfast and Northern Ireland as a tourist destination all over the world but it's been very difficult, because we have a very negative past," Titanic Belfast's marketing chief Claire Bradshaw told AFP.
"Titanic is the big story that will help visitors make the decision to come to Belfast.
"Absolutely it will put money into our economy."
Northern Ireland's economy, heavily reliant on the public sector, has been hit not only by the United Kingdom's recession and austerity measures but also the financial collapse in the Republic of Ireland.
During 2011, Northern Ireland welcomed an estimated 973,000 overseas visitors, 84 percent of them from the British mainland. Their estimated expenditure was