March 30 - Once regarded as a no-go zone for tourists, Belfast is hoping its new 155 million dollar visitor center 'Titanic Belfast' will lure a new wave of tourists eager to learn about the iconic ship in the place that it was built. Matt Cowan reports.
A new monument to the Titanic in the place where the iconic ship was built. To mark the centenary of the ship's ill-fated maiden voyage, Belfast has dusted off its credentials as the birthplace of the legend to try to lure tourists to the Northern Ireland capital. Nearly 100 years to the day after Titanic left Belfast lough, the city is unveiling Titanic Belfast - a gleaming 97 million pound visitors centre. Local architect Paul Crowe oversaw the project. SOUNDBITE: Paul Crowe, Todd Architects Director saying (English): "It means a huge amount to Northern Ireland. It puts us on to a global platform which has been missing for a long number of years. This is Belfast emerging, or continuing to emerge from a past that was troublesome. And hopefully this is looking to the future." SOUNDBITE: Matt Cowan, Reuters Technology Correspondent saying (English): "Before the Good Friday Agreement of the late nineties, the idea of Belfast as a significant tourist destination would have seemed far-fetched. Now city officials here are hoping Titanic Belfast will do for this city what Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum did for Bilbao, Spain. SOUNDBITE: Tim Husbands, Titanic Belfast Chief Executive saying (English): "In terms of economic benefit, we expect there'll be a minimum contribution of 24 million pounds into the local economy." Titanic Belfast Chief Executive Tim Husbands says the attraction is not a museum, but neither is at a theme park. That said, there is a ride that uses CGI and special effects to give visitors a sense of what life would have been like in a shipyard 100 years ago. SOUNDBITE: Tim Husbands, Titanic Belfast Chief Executive saying (English): "We're looking to get that balance of celebration and commemoration. It's a recognition that what happened to Titanic was a disaster but actually Titanic wasn't, so we're very much celebrating the workmanship and the craftsmanship that built the ship and the people and the individuals that were both on board and also that built it. But balanced with that we need to commemorate in both a respectful and educational way the loss of life and uses a sense of learning for the future." For anyone interested in the story of Titanic, this building offers a truly immersive experience on many levels. There are recreations of rooms from the various classes of travel, next to a virtual tour. This 3 sided video cave puts the visitor right inside Titanic...beginning in the engine room and ending on the deck. In a neighbouring gallery, the experience darkens. NAT SOUND OF RECORDING OF TITANIC SURVIVOR The final gallery Titanic Beneath gives visitors a bird's eye view of the wreck. Titanic Belfast has already received 100 thousand bookings - nearly a quarter of its target for the year. 100 years after Titanic's tragic voyage...it is a story that continues to inspire, enthrall and - more to the point - sell tickets. Matt Cowan, Reuters