Success of Giro d'Italia leads to surge in Italian tourists
The number of Italians visiting Northern Ireland has increased significantly since the Giro d'Italia, according to tourism chiefs.
The region is now in the top five destinations for Italians planning trips away.
Visitor numbers to Titanic Belfast and the Giant's Causeway were boosted by the locations featuring during the start of the famous cycling race in 2014.
The numbers visiting Northern Ireland rose by around 13% since the year of the Giro, and the indications are that the improvement has been maintained, Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said.
He added: "The Giro was one of the best showcases that Northern Ireland had.
"There is a significant increase in the tourism offering here with Titanic Belfast and the investment in the Giant's Causeway. The sentiment has been very positive."
Numbers at the Titanic visitor centre increased by 9% and at the Giant's Causeway by 22%
Normally, Spanish and Italian visitors are counted together.
Mr Gibbons said the value of the television coverage of the Giro was worth £5.5m in advertising alone.
The Giro began at the Titanic slipway, where the famous vessel was built. It swept from there up to the north Coast and passed near the Giant's Causeway, during a circuitous route back to Belfast along the Co Antrim coastline.
The Giro stages in Ireland were dominated by Michael Matthews, who wore the race leader's famous pink jersey as the peloton crossed the border on its way from Armagh to Dublin.
Some 71% of all Italian visitors to Northern Ireland came specifically for holidays, Tourism Ireland said.
Mr Gibbons added: "Spain and Italy have performed extremely well for tourism to Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland in recent years and the future is undoubtedly bright.
"We believe that both are markets of considerable potential over the coming years."
A new Ryanair direct route from Milan to Belfast is due to launch in September.