Titanic Belfast has been named as Europe’s top visitor attraction at a prestigious World Travel Awards.
The world’s largest Titanic exhibition scooped the top prize at the awards which were held in Sardinia at the weekend.
In its 23-year history, it is the first time an attraction from the North has won the award at the ceremony, nicknamed the ‘Tourism Oscars’.
However, it is the second year in a row a tourism initiative from Ireland has won the accolade after the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin took the top prize last year.
Titanic Belfast saw off stiff competition from the Guinness Storehouse, nominated again this year, as well as La Sagrada Familia in Spain, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Acropolis in Athens, London’s Buckingham Palace, Ribeira do Porto in Portugal, and The Roman Colosseum in Italy.
The award is yet another coup for Titanic Belfast coming after it was recently included in Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel list of 500 of the world’s most striking locations.
It is housed in East Belfast in a six-floor building featuring nine interpretive and interactive galleries that explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as the city and people which made her.
Reacting to the award, Titanic Belfast chief executive Tim Husbands said it was a huge achievement considering the attraction was still relatively young in world tourism circles.
“After only four years in operation, to be recognised and beat off stiff competition from Europe’s most iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Roman Colosseum is a true honour. We know what we offer at Titanic Belfast is special and something our city and country can be proud of and are so pleased this has been recognised on an international level,” he said.
Mr Husbands said, since opening in 2012, Titanic Belfast had established itself as a world-class attraction on the local, national and international stage.
“Last month, we welcomed our three-millionth visitor having once again exceeded visitor number expectations. This milestone came during a record-breaking August, as the visitor attraction experienced its busiest day to date.
“The visitor experience has also experienced significant growth, to date, from France, Germany, USA and China year to year,” he said.
The North’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness described the award as a “phenomenal achievement”.
“The story of the Titanic is known around the globe and it is only right and proper we have a world-class visitor attraction to match,” he said.
Chief executive of Tourism Ireland John McGrillen said the organisation was “extremely proud” of the win.
“I congratulate Tim and his team and I have every confidence that Titanic Belfast will remain at the heart of our tourism industry for decades to come,” he said.
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