Tourism stats 'in right direction'
The number of visitors from the Republic of Ireland has dropped by 14%, Northern Ireland's tourism minister has confirmed.
Despite the reduction, Arlene Foster said the overall number of tourists was up by 6% and highlighted an 18% jump in those travelling from other parts of the UK as particularly encouraging.
Mrs Foster told Question Time at the Stormont Assembly: "For me the headline statistic is very encouraging. The figures are going, yet again in the right direction."
The number of nights tourists spent in Northern Ireland also increased by 5%, the Minister said.
Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan said some visitors may have been put off by the possibility of unrest over loyalist street protests.
He said: "Would the minister call on people who are out on the streets engaging in parades and protests to come off the protests because it is having a negative impact on visitor numbers coming from the rest of Ireland?"
However, Ms Foster said she believed a flag protest through Belfast city centre which passed off without major incident on Saturday had been hyped up.
"I am sure there are even some in this chamber who are disappointed," she added.
It was also revealed that of the 1.3 million people who have visited Titanic Belfast 29% were from Northern Ireland, 27% were from the Republic, 17% from Great Britain and 27% from other parts of the world.
Ms Foster said she did not believe the £90 million visitors centre which opened last year was just a one-year wonder.
"I think that there's scope there to really sell Titanic Belfast to the rest of the world and to really sell Belfast," she said.