03/04/2006

Longer opening hours for city centre shops

Belfast City Council has today announced a new initiative, which could generate millions of pounds into the Belfast economy.

As from Monday April 10, many of the city centre stores, including Castlecourt, Debenhams, Boots and Marks and Spencer will be remaining open until 7pm from Monday to Friday.

Councillor Diane Dodds, Chairman of the Council's Tourism Sub-Committee, today said: "There are more than 180,000 people working in Belfast city centre, and a growing number of people actually living in the city centre.

"In addition, the city is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in

Europe: in 2004, more than six million visitors generated £262 million for the local economy - and offering tourists more to do in the evenings gives more potential to significantly increase this spend."

Councillor Dodds continued: "Cities across the United Kingdom - including Bristol, Glasgow, Sheffield,

Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle-upon-Tyne - have demonstrated how a vibrant evening-life‚ can boost city centre regeneration. Manchester City Centre Management launched its evening campaign in May 2005 and it is estimated that this will generate £1 billion for the city's economy over the next three years."

The Councillor added that a successful evening economy will contribute to developing Belfast into an attractive short-break destination, and will add to its appeal as a place to live and invest in.

Speaking on behalf of the retailers who are supporting the Council initiative, Castlecourt Manager, Michael O'Hagan said: "Belfast currently faces strong competition from shopping centres and retail parks, but this great commercial opportunity for us all is groundbreaking stuff for Belfast."

In addition to extended opening hours, restaurants will be offering menus and promotions, and city centre attractions, such as the city hall and the Grand Opera House, will be offering special early evening guided tours.

Other early evening entertainment is to be organised ranging from street performances, to literary readings and recitals in landmark buildings.

(EF/SP)

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