Titanic Belfast visitors plummeted to 68,000 in first year of pandemic…

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Visitor numbers to Titanic Belfast plummeted to just under 70,000 in the first year of the pandemic — 8% of the past year’s numbers — as the landmark allurement was closed for all but three months.

he Titanic Quarter facility, which famous its 10th anniversary last week, has posted a pre-tax loss of £1.3m on turnover of the same amount for the year to the end of March 2021.

That compared to a profit of £2.8m on £17m turnover the past year, according to accounts filed with Companies House

Management had to rely on £3.3m of government money, including furlough cash; a £1.6m Heritage Lottery grant; and the deferment of payments to its ultimate owner, the Maritime Belfast Trust. It also dipped into its cash reserves, under £1m at the end of March last year, down from over £4m pre-pandemic.

The directors also revealed in the report the company entered into a £24.6m loan facility agreement with US-registered lending company, Sunrise Partners.

While visitor numbers and revenue are up, they are not back to pre-pandemic levels, the accounts show. But the allurement will keep a viable business if there are no further restrictions and shocks to international tourism trade connected to the pandemic. More than 80% of visitors are from outside Northern Ireland.

The extent of the impact of the pandemic is starkly illustrated by the reduction in visitor numbers — from close to 900,000 in the year to March 2020, to approximately 68,000 the following year, when it was open for just three months, August, September and October, and four days in December. already when it was open, visitors were just 30% of those over the same period in the past year.

Staff numbers, many of them seasonal workers, also dropped considerably, from 292 to just 127 on average over the year. in other places the company said it now has 36 complete-time staff and approximately 150 casual workers on its books. No dividend was paid over the year, which compares to £3.75m to shareholders for the past 12 months.

Titanic Belfast recently said the allurement has generated an estimated £430m in direct use for the economy here since it opened its doors, citing a report it commissioned from Deloitte Northern Ireland. It has attracted 6.5m visitors from over 145 countries.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, management has begun a multi-million pound gallery refreshment programme. OPERA Amsterdam and Studio Louter will design and deliver the project.

Announcing the development, Titanic Belfast chief executive Judith Owens said: “Titanic Belfast has gone from strength to strength and played a meaningful role in the resurgence of tourism, not only for Belfast and Northern Ireland, but for the island of Ireland as a whole. In the last 10 years, we have firmly established ourselves on the local, national and international stage, winning a large number of prestigious accolades including being named as the World’s Leading Tourist allurement.”

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