Boost for tourism industry as figures reveal increase in visitors

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Visitor numbers to Northern Ireland Figures are up to 4.52 million, an increase of 5 percent on the year to September 2014.

Visitor numbers for the first nine months of 2015 (January – September) showed an increase of 12,000 visitors on the same period in 2014.

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The full year figures also show an 8 percent increase in external visitors and highlight that visitors are staying longer with a 4% increase in total nights spent by visitors in Northern Ireland.

Overall visitor numbers in Northern Ireland grew by around 12,000 (to 3.45 million) in the first nine months of 2015 when compared to the same period in 2014. This information is based on trips made by overnight tourists from Great Britain (GB) and overseas, Republic of Ireland (ROI) as well as NI residents taking overnight trips within NI (Domestic Tourism).

Commenting on the figures, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell said: “The tourism sector is becoming increasingly significant to the local economy and it is important we maintain the momentum built up over the last few years in promoting Northern Ireland to a global audience as a great place to visit. In general the picture shown for tourism performance in the nine months of 2015 is positive with an increase in overall visitor numbers. I am particularly pleased visitor numbers from Great Britain and overseas have shown strong increases with an 11% rises in both cases.”

When visits by NI residents are excluded, the number of external visitors increased by 5% to just under 1.72 million, with associated spend increasing by 5% to £419 million when compared to the same period in 2014.

Overall visitor spend figures are down by 3% on the year to September 2015, to £746million, however spend by external visitors increased to £535million.

The Minister added: “I note that there has been a slight reduction in visitor expenditure overall but I am very encouraged that spend by external visitors has increased by 5% during the first nine months of 2015 when compared to the same period in 2014. The impact of the weak euro cannot be under estimated particularly in relation to the performance of the Republic of Ireland and Domestic markets. This presents a challenge to us all and we must make every effort to promote Northern Ireland as a value for money destination to both external and domestic visitors.

“I am committed to growing the tourism sector here and 2016 is an exciting year for the industry. The Northern Ireland Year of Food initiative has gotten off to a very strong start and events to date have been very well received and raised awareness of the quality of our local produce. Work on a new strategy for tourism is also well underway with workshops taking place across Northern Ireland. A Tourism Strategy will ensure the industry and all levels of government are working together to grow the tourism sector and add real value to the local economy by increasing our global competitiveness over the next decade.”