28/05/2003

Cultural 'Quarters' key to tourism and economic growth

European Cultural Tourism experts gathered in Belfast today to discuss how best to use the city's Cultural Tourism Quarters for tourism and job creation.

The seminar, held in the Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office and hosted by Belfast City Council, focused on the development of the Quarters and their potential impact on regeneration of the city.

According to the various experts, the development of Belfast's Queen's Quarter and Cathedral Quarter, as well as the longer term Titanic Quarter provides significant opportunities for major tourism growth and long term economic benefits. These include a potential dramatic increase in tourist income generation, job creation through the development of new cultural industries and associated service sectors.

Comparisons were made with other cities that have already developed strong cultural quarters and the potential for Belfast to emulate their successes was explored. Dublin's Temple Bar area for instance has witnessed over 400 cultural and other businesses locating in Temple Bar between 1991 and 2001.

Alongside this, full time employment in cultural enterprises grew from 240 to 650, not to mention the thousands of jobs created in the construction, cultural and associated services sectors. The number of daily pedestrians visiting Temple Bar also rose dramatically from 20,000 in 1993 to over 75,000 in 2001, with Dublin Tourism currently getting more enquiries about Temple Bar than about Dublin itself.

Speaking about the seminar, Councillor Tom Hartley, Chairman, Tourism and Promotion of Belfast Sub Committee, Belfast City Council said: "This seminar is a unique and exciting opportunity to learn about the development of cultural tourism areas in other cities and will be used to inform the development of Cultural Quarters here in Belfast. It is clear that from the examples we have heard about today, including the experience of Stockholm, we can expect similarly positive long term results from the development of our own Cultural Quarters here."

A variety of themes were explored at the event, attended by a range of interested parties from Belfast's cultural and economic communities. These included an exploration of the relationships between culture and tourism, a focus on the built environment as a basis for renewal and regeneration, as well as the packaging and marketing of cultural quarters. These themes were discussed alongside case studies from Stockholm's cultural quarter and Dublin's Temple Bar, and the experiences of both Birmingham and Newcastle who have recently developed strong cultural quarters.

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