Four-city-four-day mission to promote Belfast
I am on a four-city-four-day mission to promote Belfast to bring back business which will provide the jobs needed to build the peace.
We kick off today in Washington DC where the message to our audience or Irish Americans and tour operators will be: “be part of the remarkable transformation taking place in Belfast”.
And of course the fact that this blossoming of Belfast includes a new convention centre, due to open in May 2016 at a cost of £30m, will make our new narrative exciting and compelling for all the audiences I meet in the days ahead.
But there is much else to send the visitor heart soaring: the greatest tourist attraction in Belfast in the Titanic Centre; the epicentre of Irish cultural revival in the Gaeltacht Quarter; a burgeoning cultural melting pot in the Cathedral Quarter; the mouthwatering cuisine of the Deanes, McKennas and their counterparts. And the fact that we are home to Van Morrison and the Game of Thrones is the icing on the cake for those who are keen to find out what makes Belfast special.
I am deeply impressed by the professionalism and drive of the Visit Belfast and Waterfront Hall teams who are here — with their colleagues in Titanic Belfast and UNITED — to win business for Belfast. I have no doubt their tireless service to the city we all love will bear fruit.
And I kicked off my visit to the US Capital by meeting Alan Novak and his wife Katy. Alan is founder of City Interests, a remarkable development company which specialises in bringing new life to neighbourhoods on the periphery. Tomorrow, he addresses a conference in DC on ‘Resurgent Neighbourhoods Fuelling DC’s Economic Growth. A great friend of Belfast, Alan owes us a return visit: he was last in our city in 1952 on an American navy ship!
Finally, best wishes to Marty Walsh, returned as the incoming mayor of Boston last night. Marty visited Belfast with the Bruins in 2010 but has long been a friend of Ireland and of our city. I look forward to seeing him visit Belfast when he settles into office.