The First and Deputy First Ministers, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, joined Tourism Minister Arlene Foster in London last night to officially launch the NI 2012 'Our Time, Our Place' campaign.
Just as the MTV European Music Awards brought the stars to Belfast in 2011, so a series of openings, festivals, concerts and anniversaries will help to again shine the global spotlight on Northern Ireland in 2012.
Taking centre stage is the iconic Titanic Belfast visitor attraction in Belfast's docklands, which will open on March 31. Described by travel publication Fodor's Ireland as the 'world's biggest tourism story in 2012', the opening will coincide with the centenary of the liner’s fateful maiden voyage.
Other exciting events in 2012 include the opening of a visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway and the MAC arts facility in Belfast, the 50th anniversary of the Belfast Festival at Queen's, the Peace One Day concert in Derry~Londonderry, the Cultural Olympiad and the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and Maritime Festival, to name but a few.
'2012 will be a year of celebration for Northern Ireland, and we want to share our country with as many people as possible,' said the First Minister. 'We have here a real opportunity to show what Northern Ireland has to offer, and to spread the word that Northern Ireland is a truly remarkable tourist destination.
'Tourism has a key role to play in the economic development of Northern Ireland, and we have placed its development at the heart of our draft Programme for Government. 2012 is the year when all of that investment comes together to place Northern Ireland on the world stage as a visitor destination.'
McGuinness, theDeputy First Minister, believes that all of these events will help to 'create a new sense of civic pride' amongst residents of Northern Ireland. And whilst Northern Ireland has 'so much to celebrate' in 2012, McGuinness looked forward to yet another year of events in 2013.
'I believe the positive effects of this year’s events will last beyond the year itself,' he said at the London launch, 'and will also provide a great lead in to 2013, when my home and historic city of Derry plays host to the City of Culture and Belfast stages the World Police and Fire Games.
Speaking at the launch, Tourism Minister Foster said that NI 2012 was set to become the biggest and best show that Northern Ireland will ever have the privilege to stage. 'As if that were not enough, we will now be hosting the Irish Open on the world class course at Royal Portrush. But it is just the beginning of a new era and I am confident that it will generate a lasting and positive legacy to take us confidently into the future.'
NI 2012 – The Year Ahead:
March: Titanic Belfast visitor centre opens on March 31. Titanic Belfast Festival 2012 will continue throughout the year, featuring a Titanic Light Show from April 7 – 13, MTV Rock at the Docks concert on the Titanic Slipways from April 12 – 13, the BBC Titanic Proms on September 8 and more.
April: World-class arts facility The MAC opens in Belfast, featuring theatre spaces, galleries, a café and more.
June: The Peace One Day concert welcomes Massive Attack and others to the newly renovated Ebrington site in Derry~Londonderry. The concert is the official opening of the London 2012 Festival. Also in June is Land of Giants, a hugely ambitious performance piece in Belfast's Titanic Slipways to celebrate Northern Ireland's cultural heritage.
July: Created by opera and theatre director Deborah Warner, Peace Camp was commissioned by the Culture Company for the UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations, and features a series of light installations dotted along the north coast. Also in July, the Clipper Homecoming Maritime Festival will see Derry~Londonderry feature as a stop on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
August/September: The Giant's Causeway visitor centre opens, along with Hans Peter Kuhn's FLAGS installation, also part of the London 2012 Festival.
October: The Belfast Festival at Queen's celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Download the Northern Ireland Tourist Board's NI 2012 website to download events schedules and for information on how to get involved.