Northern Ireland defies tourism slump
Overseas visitor numbers to Northern Ireland increased last year - despite a domestic slump.
There were 357,0000 overnight visitors from outside the UK to the province in 2010, up from 355,000 the previous year, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The trend was backed up by separate data from Tourism Ireland, which calculated a 23,000 increase in non-EU visitors.
The end of the recession in Northern Europe is believed to be a key reason for the increase.
Northern Ireland was the only area to show a rise outside London according to the annual survey, released this week by the ONS.
It said a total of 100,000 were here for a holiday, 72,000 were for business, and 143,000 came to visit relatives. The remainder were classified as 'other'.
Once they arrived, the overseas residents spent a total of £196m during their visits, an increase of £3m from 2009.
The increase in foreign visitors arriving in Northern Ireland comes despite a slump in visitors from Britain, which fuelled an overall drop in numbers.
The Annual Passenger Survey has been produced for the past 50 years. Aside from Northern Ireland, London was the only region of the UK to see visits by overseas residents increase during 2010, with overnight visits rising from 14.2 million in 2009 to 14.7 million last year.
Scotland also saw a fall in visits - from 2.5 million to 2.4 million - and Wales saw a fall from 1 million in 2009 to 0.9 million last year.
Edinburgh continues to be the second most visited city by overseas residents, attracting 1.3 million visits last year. The figure for Manchester was 811,000, with Birmingham receiving 740,000 visits and Glasgow 551,000.
French residents made the most trips (3.6 million) to the UK last year, followed by the Germans (3 million), the Americans (2.7 million) and visitors from the Republic (2.6 million).
Tourism Ireland told the Belfast Telegraph that its own estimates for 2010 also showed an increase in overseas visitors.
There was a slight drop in American arrivals, from 146,000 to 145,000, but sharp increases from the EU (211,000 to 223,000) and from other regions (70,000 to 82,000).
Tourism Ireland's figures showed higher numbers because the ONS survey did not sample the Irish border.
Despite the rise in overseas visitors, the total number of arrivals went down slightly, according to Tourism Ireland, by 25,000 to 1.44 million.
This was because of a 48,000 drop in British visitors.