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Peace brings prosperity to Belfast

01 March 2007

The impact that acts of terrorism have on tourism is immense. The effects of the London bombings, the Sharm el-Sheikh attacks or the Luxor shootings testify to the fact that any city or town under threat will, inevitably, see visitors driven away.

Such terrorism was commonplace in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s. But in the 10 years since the Good Friday Agreement was made, the country has reported dynamic growth in tourism. Our spotlight on Northern Ireland tourism in this week's issue illustrates the country's complete turnaround since the peace process began.

Countrywide, tourism has had a massive impact on the country's economy, with total revenue from tourism rising from just over £200m in 1996 to almost £350m in 2005. Meanwhile in Belfast, the country's capital, an even more remarkable story unfolds. Named as a Must See Place for 2007 in the Lonely Planet guide, its occupancy figures have almost doubled in the past decade.

Just as people are drawn to Ground Zero in New York out of curiosity, areas in west Belfast, such as Shankill and the Falls, previously the scenes of intense sectarian violence, are now visitor attractions. Open-topped buses regularly take tourists around the area to show the city's iconic and emotive wall paintings. It would seem that the increase in visitors to Northern Ireland has happened not because people previously stayed away, but because its living history is such a draw.

Nothing will eclipse the troubles that the people of Northern Ireland have had to overcome, but to their credit, the development of their tourism industry is certainly an inspirational story.

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Amanda Afiya, deputy editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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