Belsonic’s £20m boost for hospitality and economy: Colin Neill

Annual concerts are major part of a vital ecosystem that hugely supports businesses

Final preparations get underway ahead of Belsonic 2024 from Friday the 7th of June at Ormeau Park in Belfast.
This year's line-up includes Derek Ryan, Picture This, Limp Bizkit, Becky Hill, Sting, Blondie, Take That and Shania Twain.
The Belsonic 2024 line-up at Ormeau Park in Belfast included Derek Ryan, Picture This, Limp Bizkit, Becky Hill, Sting, Blondie, Take That and Shania Twain. Picture: Colm Lenaghan

When even the dullest economist, who likely had never heard of Taylor Swift until now, is talking about the economic impact of her Eras tour – estimated to be valued at £1 billion for the UK leg alone – I thought it was worth taking a look at the economic impact of two of our own home-grown music events, Belsonic and Emerge.

While I knew they were bound to have a strong positive impact on the local economy, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when I read the independent research and discovered that Belsonic 2023 delivered a not too shabby £20 million benefit to the local economy, with around £6.6 million of that spent in local hospitality (accommodation, food and drink).

Belsonic was followed later in 2023 by the Emerge music festival, which added another £10 million benefit to the local economy, delivering a staggering combined total of over £30 million benefit, which is serious money in anyone’s book.

Obviously, these events are smaller in scale than the Eras tour, but they have one big advantage, they are staged every year and will continue to deliver a serious economic impact long after the Eras tour is a distant memory, relived occasionally through videos on a Swiftie’s phone.

So, with Belsonic 2024 and its series of concerts having now drawn to a close, this year’s likely £20 million-plus economic benefit will have been a welcome boost for many of our restaurants and pubs as they continue to battle with the fallout of the cost of doing business crisis.

And we can still look forward to Emerge and a further potential £10 million-plus boost in August, part of which will again go to local hospitality businesses, which will hopefully help take them through the quiet periods of September and October before the busier Christmas trading period kicks in.

Events such as Belsonic and Emerge that draw extra punters into our towns and cities are obviously good news for hospitality, and what is good for hospitality is good for the local economy at large.

Colin Neill
Colin Neill

The hospitality sector is the fourth largest employer in the private sector; for every £100 spent within it, £58 are reinvested in the local economy; and one third of all Northern Ireland agrifood is purchased by the sector.

The Eras Tour might not have come to Belfast, but events like Belsonic and Emerge show how important the arts are for our local economy and that the arts and hospitality are part of an important ecosystem that supports lots of businesses within its the supply chain and beyond. They also make the summer rain that little more bearable.

  • Colin Neill is chief executive of Hospitality Ulster