The World Travel Awards, dubbed as the Oscars for Tourism, held its prestigious ceremony in the Maldives this year. The most coveted award, the World's Leading Tourist Attraction, was won by Titanic Belfast, the largest Titanic exhibition in the world.
After winning Europe's Leading Tourist Attraction earlier this year, beating some stiff competitors like Rome's Colosseum and The Eiffel Tower, Belfast went on to compete in the world attraction category, bringing with it Ireland's first award since the initiation of World Travel Awards 23 years ago. It's also the 2nd time United Kingdom got the award after 10 years.
Titanic Belfast first opened its doors in 2012 on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, in the exact location where the famous ship was built and launched. Since then, tourists from all over the world have been visiting the world-acclaimed attraction, even celebrities like Adele, Michael Buble, and the "Titanic" film director, James Cameron. Her Majesty The Queen has also visited the site.
To recognize the award, over one million votes from 216 countries were cast, and eight global contenders were chosen. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the Las Vegas Strip, USA, Machu Picchu, Peru and Guinness Storehouse, Ireland were among the finalists, but Titanic Belfast won them all over.
With this new recognition, citizens of the Northern Ireland were overjoyed, with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster offering her congratulations. The Dailymail UK quoted here as saying: "In just four short years, Titanic Belfast has become an iconic tourist must-see, attracting over three million visitors from all over the world."
"While it's no surprise to me it has been recognized in this way, it is a wonderful achievement to win the world's best accolade ahead of other venues like Machu Picchu and Abu Dhabi's Ferrari World," Foster added.
Titanic Belfast was built on a 77-million pound budget. The shape of the building was designed according to the same shape of the bow of the ship, and when you look at it from the sky, the building is shaped like a star, which represents the White Star Line connection.
The building's chief executive, Tim Husbands, was more than overjoyed for receiving the prestigious award. According to a press release, he said: "Over the past few years, we have continued to go from strength to strength but to be voted the World's Leading Tourist Attraction by both the industry and the public for excellence in tourism and for our original product, is really the jewel in our crown.
"We are delighted that this award firmly shines a spotlight not only on RMS Titanic Belfast but Belfast and Northern Ireland, and celebrates our authentic insight and connection to RMS Titanic."