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Republic visitors to Northern Ireland fall by 79,000 in a year

By Lesley Houston

Fewer tourists visited Northern Ireland last year, with a near 20% drop in the number of visitors from the Republic being blamed on poor pound and euro exchange rates.

Those who did venture here, however, shelled out more cash during their stay, new tourism statistics have shown.

Figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) for April 2013 to March this year revealed that the number of visitors from the Republic declined by 18% compared to a year before – an estimated 79,000 people.

The agency monitors the performance of hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and self-catering establishments. It takes annual headcounts of the number of visitors to Northern Ireland's attractions and how much cash they spend while they are here.

The paper showed there were a total of 4.1m overnight trips which generated spending of £735m compared to £707m in the previous 12 months.

The stark drop in travellers from the Republic was part of a general decline in visitor numbers, including a 3% fall in daytrippers and those staying overnight, on top of a 1% drop of visitors from outside the island.

The lighter footfall showed a corresponding drop in expenditure by NI residents of £15m and a fall in the spend by visitors from the Republic of £7m over the same period.

Overall, however, data for the period representing visitors from home and abroad showed a 1% fall from the previous year's figures, but a 4% upturn in their spending.

Taken as a whole, data on the number of overnight stays by visitors from Britain and overseas rose by 7% with their expenditure going up 12%. NISRA's latest paper noted that the rise in the value of sterling against the euro and the dollar may have played a role in lowering demand, especially from the south.

"Against both the euro and US dollar, the pound is stronger than a year ago; in general a stronger pound should act to lower tourism demand," it stated.

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