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With the Troubles behind it, Northern Ireland is fast becoming an events hot spot, reports Stuart Derrick.
After nearly three decades of negative publicity surrounding the Troubles, Northern Ireland is reaping something of a peace dividend. Despite the suspension of devolution since 2002, a more stable economic situation following the Good Friday peace accord has allowed infrastructure development, inward investment and a reappraisal of image.
Events organisers have been encouraged by signs of normalisation. In August, Belfast beat off competition from 20 cities for the title of UK City of the Future. Visitors to Northern Ireland jumped by 25% in 2003 to 5.3m and Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) recently announced a pounds 1.2m leisure travel campaign to boost numbers from outside Northern Ireland.
Lorraine McGoran, marketing manager at the Millennium Project-funded Odyssey Arena, says the city is on a roll. 'With the renewed confidence in Belfast from both the business and tourism sectors, there is a very apparent buzz about the city. Seven per cent of our audiences are travelling from outside the country.'
As well as being a fixture on European music tours, the Arena's 2005 diary includes such events as the Northern Ireland Motorcycle Festival, Business Ireland, Job Scene and a …