The Minister was welcomed to the airport by Chief Executive Brian Ambrose and met members of the community, the airline’s partner companies as well as construction firms and airport employees.
The Minister was given a tour of the terminal enhancements which include a new departures lounge, improved technology to speed the journey through security, new conference rooms and investment in car parking and front of house facilities.
During the visit children from St Joseph’s Primary School and Victoria Park Primary School entertained passengers with their Sonic Sound performance, a specially composed piece of music on an airport theme with musicians from Camerata Ireland.
Among commercial tenants now occupying the new departures lounge are World Duty Free, WH Smith, Bushmills Bar, Harvest Market restaurant and Lavazza Coffee.
Around 20 jobs have been created as a result of the investment by the airport’s owners and the enhancements will enable the airport to handle a further increase in passenger numbers.
Arlene Foster said: “These new airport facilities will be a major boost to tourism. The Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment’s draft Tourism Strategy aims to increase visitor numbers from 3.2 million to 4.5 million and earnings from £536million to £1billion by 2020.
“I welcome the efforts made by Belfast City Airport in improving and enhancing the tourist experience in Northern Ireland.”
Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of George Best Belfast City Airport, said:
“Passengers have reported a remarkable difference thanks to the upgraded facilities when departing the airport.
“This significant private investment enhances the customer experience for both local people and tourists.
“We celebrated our busiest day ever last month, welcoming 11,900 passengers through our terminal and we will consistently aim to stay ahead of the curve in catering for our growing passenger base.
“It also has created new jobs, demonstrating our commitment to the community we live in.
“We believe we have an airport the city can be proud of, which is the envy of many other cities.”
MP for East Belfast and Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Naomi Long, said:
“This is a huge infrastructure investment by George Best Belfast City Airport which employs 1,500 people, many of them from east Belfast and the surrounding area.
“The airport makes significant contribution to the economy both through business and tourism and I am sure the fantastic new lounge and its facilities will leave visitors with a positive lasting impression of our city.”