Tourism to Belfast has more than quadrupled over the last 7 years, to reach 6.9 million visitors in 2007 bringing £313million into the city. BVCB is an arm’s length organisation of Belfast City Council with the responsibility of marketing the city as a leisure and business destination.
Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau was established in 1999 to promote Belfast as a world class leisure and business tourism destination.
The Bureau works in partnership promoting the city, and currently represents 500 + businesses within Belfast, Greater Belfast and beyond. BVCB manages walk-in information centres located at 47 Donegall Place and at both Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport.
With all this visitor activity BVCB needed to upgrade their existing web presence and create a centralised portal for visitors to access local information and for businesses to advertise their attractions and services.
The initial website was developed using technology which had rapidly become out of date - it was difficult to update the site using the bespoke content management system and many areas had to be changed by the agency, incurring significant costs.
In addition, the performance of the website was poor which didn't service the needs of many visitors from around the world who wanted to be able to access the site 24/7, view videos and make online purchases. The whole user experience discouraged this and as a result, the Bureau's potential income was never realised.
After a very competitive European Journal tending exercise Unified Solutions were chosen as the preferred provider to build the portal, and deliver the new GoTo Belfast web site with 3 specific microsites. The technology platform chosen was the Alterian WCMS and Unified Solutions supplied an end to end development service which included the migration of all the content for:
Bespoke development provided by Unified Solutions’ Professional Services team includes a secure section of the GoTo site for an online gift shop which is seamlessly integrated with the existing warehouse shipping service to streamline the service and an online event booking facility. Registered users can browse or search for products and add them to an online basket. Quantities and gift wrapping can be amended and users can select the variants of a product; for example the colour of a product or its size. Support is provided for different delivery types and secure payment makes use of the world-leading e-commerce capabilities of PayPal.
The browse and search facilities within the GoTo site expose powerful tools that enable visitors to quickly find organisations, accommodation, events and leisure activities of interest. Underpinning this functionality is a sophisticated categorisation management suite written by Unified Solutions and completely customisable by BVCB.
The design of the website ensures that promotional themes and images used offline are brought to prominence on the site and integrates the online look-and-feel closely with other marketing and fundraising activities.
The site provides a comprehensive, current and visually appealing introduction to Belfast while directing its many user audiences to numerous sources of relevant information.
Since initial launch of the website, further development has included an online shop to support BVCB commercial activities.