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Trips to Northern Ireland from Republic hit all-time high

Domestic holidaymakers make up nearly 60% of our tourism numbers, a new report has revealed.

But the number of tourists visiting Northern Ireland from overseas declined by 8% between 2008 and 2009.

As the Belfast Telegraph reported last week, the ‘staycation’ is becoming a fashionable trend.

Figures released by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) show 56% of the 3.3 million trips taken in the province in 2009 were taken by Northern Ireland residents and visitors from the Republic.

Trips to Northern Ireland from the Republic hit an all-time high of 475,000 last year, with a strong euro encouraging Southern visitors to stay longer and spend more. In total, they stayed for 1,273,000 nights and spent £66m while they were here.

A spokesperson for the NITB said: “The economic climate was clearly a contributing factor, however visitors are now realising the great range of things to see and do throughout Northern Ireland; from our world-class visitor attractions to our unique culture and heritage and, of course, our excellent food and drink.

“This positively impacts on the wider hospitality industry. Throughout tourism, we need to keep the momentum going by providing unique experiences for all of our visitors.”

The weak pound hasn’t had a similar pull on the rest of the eurozone, with total overseas visits falling by 8% on the figures for 2008.

The worldwide recession, unemployment and poor consumer confidence are all cited by the NITB as possible reasons for the decline in foreign visitors and those from Britain.

Tourism Ireland is responsible for promoting Northern Ireland and the Republic in Britain.

Lawrence Bate of Tourism Ireland said: “Great Britain is the largest and most important market for tourism to the island of Ireland and, in this difficult year for overseas tourism, all our energies are fully focused on the restoration of growth from GB.

“Tourism Ireland has an exceptionally strong promotional programme under way.

“Our largest ever mid-year campaign is tapping into the later-than-ever booking trend.

“We are placing significant emphasis on value-for-money offers, to drive home to British consumers our message about the superb range of offers available right around the island of Ireland.”

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