'Get off the sofa' to back Belfast
The Backin' Belfast campaign hopes to change the conversation about the city, a senior tourism official has said.
People need to be encouraged to get off their sofa and socialise in Belfast in the wake of a difficult few weeks, according to Gerry Lennon, chief executive of the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Flag protests and snow, combined with traditional post-Christmas belt-tightening, have hugely impacted local traders, he said.
Mr Lennon explained the motivation behind the campaign as its new advertising drive was launched. He said the conversation about Belfast had been very negative for the past six to 10 weeks.
"We need to just change that into a positive and remind people what a great place this is and, I have to say, these are plans being evolved and being developed as we speak," he added.
He said the campaign will appeal to the hearts and minds of the citizens to come and back Belfast.
"The reputation of Belfast has definitely been damaged, there's no question about that, and we could argue about how bad or whatever," he said.
"But the bottom line is the footfall in the city has dropped - that's our number one priority, to get footfall back up in the city because a rising tide lifts all boats."
Stephen Magorrian runs the Botanic Inns chain of well-known Belfast venues, many of which have been affected in recent weeks.
He said: "Since Christmas it's been worse and we have been trading down and that's against nine months of when we had been trading up in 2012."