Numbers of tourists up by 108,000
The number of tourists opting to holiday in Northern Ireland has soared by almost a third, it was revealed last night.
Tourism Minister Nigel Dodds said an extra 108,000 holidaymakers are now coming to the region each year.
The increase takes the number of tourists heading north of the border to almost 500,000 per year.
The vast majority of visitors are from the USA and Europe, the DUP minister said.
While tourist numbers continue to rise, the number of business people visiting the region has dropped, down 4% over the last 12 months.
Mr Dodds highlighted the central role played by tourism in the Northern Ireland economy at the 30th annual Tourism Awards in Belfast.
"Over the past 12 months we have seen great progress in the numbers of visitors to Northern Ireland from all our key markets," he told an audience of around 350 representatives from the local tourism industry.
"We are forecasting an overall 28% increase in holiday visits with particularly strong performances from Europe and the USA.
"Closer to home, we are estimating the Irish Republic had a 10% growth, and that there has been a strong return of holiday visits from Great Britain.