Many cities claim a piece of the Titanic's heritage, but only one town built her. And with that legacy in mind one of the top English travel journalists has claimed this week that the new Belfast Titanic complex will exceed 'all estimations' when it opens later this year.
Simon Calder, a travel editor with the Independent newspaper in London, joked that when the new center opens in April staff at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, currently the biggest tourist attraction in the Republic, 'will wonder where everyone has gone.'
Calder enjoyed a sneak peak tour of the site and afterward announced the building will do for Belfast what the Guggenheim museum has done for the Spanish port city of Bilbao - become a tourist cash cow.
The 153 million dollar building will house nine galleries with interactive exhibitions, including an underwater exploration theatre, with state of the art recreations of the ship's decks and cabins and a 1000-seater banqueting room. Around 400,000 people are expected to visit the site each year, gaining an almost eerie insight into what the real ship looked like.
Titanic commemorations will be bigger than the Olympics, say Fodor’s
Irish who lost their lives on the Titanic remembered 99 years later - VIDEO
Cruise that recreates the Titanic's voyage sold out
'Titanic Belfast will be transformational and I confidently predict it will exceed all estimations in terms of visitor numbers and revenue generated,' Calder told the Belfast Telegraph.
'It really celebrates Belfast's industrial heritage. Like Bilbao, there is a great shipbuilding heritage, it is a divided city, but the Guggenheim is great on the outside but rubbish on the inside - unlike the Titanic building.'
But Clader warned the center not to rest on their laurels. Belfast is not the only city wishing to capitalixe on the Titanic's enduring legend, he said.
'There are many places trying to claim the Titanic legacy. Southampton in England has opened a museum, Cherbourg in France claims to be a Titanic town and now Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in Canada are saying 'we have Titanic heritage'.'
Nonetheless Calder believes Northern Ireland should prepare for 'its most remarkable year ever' in terms of tourist numbers and he believes visitors will find themselves among 'the most welcoming of people in the most welcoming of places.'