Northern Ireland

Titanic Belfast has had more than 1m visitors since opening

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Media captionThe building opened in March 2012, ahead of the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic

The Titanic Visitor Centre in Belfast has attracted more than a million visitors since it opened last year, according to newly released figures.

The £77m tourist attraction has exceeded its initial target of 450,000 visitors a year.

Economists say the real test of Titanic will come in future years as it tries to sustain numbers, once the initial 'novelty factor' has worn off.

The one millionth visitor was a family from County Kildare.

Tourists have come from 145 different countries including Australia, America, Andorra and Afghanistan.

Visitors to Titanic in the past year have included the Queen and singer Rod Stewart.

When it was opened at the end of March last year, it was estimated that it would need 290,000 annual visitors to break even.

The millionth visitor was Ciara Harmon from Co Kildare, who came to Titanic on Tuesday with her husband John and children Nicole (16) and Aaron (12).

Mrs Harmon said: "It's amazing to see how much Belfast has transformed. It's a wonderful city and we are pleased to be part of this great occasion for Titanic Belfast."

Tim Husbands, the chief executive of Titanic Belfast, said that reaching 1m visitors in 16 months had exceeded his own expectations.

He said: "Those numbers are testament to the appeal of Titanic, and the appeal of Belfast as a new, vibrant, confident tourist destination."

The Titanic Centre opened last year close to where the famous liner was launched in Belfast in 1911. The following year, it sank on its maiden voyage, leading to the death of 1,512 passengers and crew.

There was some controversy after the centre opened, when public access to one of the centre-pieces of the tourist attraction - the Titanic staircase, was restricted.

There were also some complaints that the ticket prices - £13.50 for an adult - were too expensive.

The six-storey visitors centre is close to the slipway where the Titanic was launched more than a century ago.

Its opening coincided with the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking, in which 1,502 people lost their lives.

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