10% rise in tourists from the Republic as Northern Ireland gems prove too good to resist
The number of tourists visiting Northern Ireland from the Republic has risen by 10%, according to figures.
The number of overnight stays also increased by 1%, climbing to 4.6 million between October 2015 and September last year, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said.
Overall spending by tourists increased by 10% during the period - rising from £747.9m to £820.9m.
The number of tourists from the Republic visiting family and friends, meanwhile, increased by around 33%.
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: "I am pleased that in the year to September 2016, visitors spent £821m in the local economy.
"Almost three-quarters of this, 74%, came from external visitors, making tourism worth £606m as an export business.
"This is an increase of 10% in overall visitor spend when compared to the year to September 2015.
"Tourism performance remains very positive as the momentum created over the last few years continues to build.
"The latest occupancy statistics up to November 2016 show that the record room occupancy levels experienced over the summer period have continued through the autumn.
"There was a 10% increase in bed spaces sold in hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs for the first 11 months of the year.
"That equates to almost 360,000 additional bed spaces sold compared to the same period in 2015."
There were 1.342 million trips to Northern Ireland taken by people in Great Britain, 735,556 from outside the UK and Ireland, 396,748 from the Republic and 2,129,491 from within Northern Ireland.
But spending by people from here and the Republic dropped by 3% and 7% respectively.
Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen welcomed the broadly positive news.
"Some £2.4m was spent by tourists every day during the first nine months of 2016, a period that saw the opening of the newly extended Belfast Waterfront and an outstanding summer for Titanic Belfast, the Causeway Coastal Route and many other tourism attractions across the country," he said.
"Other contributing factors include the highly successful programme for the year of food and drink and, of course, more favourable exchange rates across the peak holiday season.
"This positive performance is supported by Nisra's January to September occupancy figures for serviced accommodation and Tourism NI's September Research Barometer.
"These both demonstrated increased demand within the sector during the time period, particularly over the summer period".
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said: "We're kicking off our promotional programme for 2017 in a position of some strength, based on the success of 2016. Tourism Ireland will create 'standout' for Northern Ireland around the world.
"(It will) highlight iconic experiences such as Titanic Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route (which includes the Giant's Causeway).
"We will continue our successful partnership with HBO, to highlight Northern Ireland - through the exciting events of Game of Thrones - on the global stage.
"Priority markets include Great Britain, mainland Europe, North America, Australia and developing markets.
"We will also continue to monitor the implications of Brexit on outbound travel from Great Britain."