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Northern Ireland becoming even better value for visitors from Britain and Europe

By Graham Keddie

Passenger numbers were already on an upward trajectory prior to the EU referendum.

Since the pound lost value against the euro, making us more competitively priced, we have seen an increase in the number of people from the Republic of Ireland who are using the airport.

In particular, our car parks have more Republic of Ireland-registered vehicles but we don't have any numerical breakdown. Our list of destinations - now running at more than 80 - offers real choice to the passenger. And, of course, the M1 runs in both directions, which means that people from the south are only 40-50 minutes from Drogheda and less than two hours from Dublin.

For people living in the six southern border counties, we represent better value than before. We still have to contend with air passenger duty at £13 one-way, but that is offset by our airlines offering very competitive fares, and a weaker pound.

In fact, Belfast International has been making the point to tourism bodies that they should be redoubling their marketing efforts in Great Britain. Northern Ireland has seldom been better positioned to benefit from a weak pound. Holiday-makers or people wanting value-for-money weekend breaks from Great Britain won't get that by travelling to the Republic of Ireland because of the strength of the euro, but they will get real value by remaining in the pound currency area, and Northern Ireland is where it's at right now.

It's not just the increased value that people from the RoI will get by using Belfast International as their island 'gateway'. The same value awaits visitors from mainland Europe keen to explore what Northern Ireland has to offer.

In addition, there's a stronger dollar which also creates opportunities for us that have to be exploited. Tourism bodies should redouble their efforts to market Northern Ireland throughout the Republic of Ireland, mainland Europe and the United States of America.

We have to be capable of catching this 'tide' and extracting everything we possibly can from an immense opportunity.

Graham Keddie is managing director of Belfast International Airport

Belfast Telegraph