Hotel room sales in Londonderry have shot up by almost a quarter in the first few months of the City of Culture celebrations.
The city’s tourism sector is enjoying a welcome boost in trade which saw hotel room occupancy rise by 23% as the 2013 festivities got under way in the city.
The increase in visitors from all over the world has bucked the downward trend across Europe as the recession and financial uncertainty bite into the holiday sector in countries across the Continent.
Northern Ireland’s tourism and hospitality sector will tomorrow get the chance to build upon the encouraging start to 2013 as a record attendance of 130-plus international tour operators gather in the city to do business.
The Meet The Buyer initiative is the Northern Ireland Tourism Board’s flagship event for 2013 and is in Derry for the first time in five years.
It will look to strike deals with the likes of hoteliers, transport operatives and restaurants.
Odhran Dunne from Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau said the north west’s tourism pulling power is expected to grow more over the next six months as the main City of Culture celebrations and events are staged.
Mr Dunne said: “The first quarter of the year is traditionally seen as our low season but the increase in the hotel room sales bodes well for quarters two and three when the major events like One Big Weekend, the Fleadh and the Maiden City Tattoo kick in and attract people from various corners of the globe.
“The rise of 23% for the first quarter is against the backdrop of a challenging economic environment, so it is a great result.
“We have noticed a great mix of people coming from all over the world. The domestic market, the South of Ireland, has shown good growth over the past quarter.
“The Great Britain market has been strong because of the links to UK City of Culture.
“The American market is also showing signs of improvement and that can only be good for the whole island.
“We are also noticing visitors from most parts of Europe and further afield — Australia, New Zealand and Asia.”
Mr Dunne said that getting tourists to spread the word about Derry was a major priority for 2013, as well as attracting those same visitors back in years to come.
He added: “Another element of 2013 is business and corporate events and this is a signature year for the city in terms of high-profile conferences.”
Mr Dunne said the operators from 18 different countries were due to arrive today to attend a gala dinner at The Venue tonight before the Meet The Buyer event gets under way.
“This will be a great event,” he said. “We will have the opportunity to showcase our city and how it has moved on over the past five years to become a vibrant destination.”