Belfast Telegraph

Surge in visitors from Republic sees Northern Ireland's tourism benefit to tune of £40m

By John Mulgrew

Spending by visitors to Northern Ireland from the Republic soared by 75% to almost £40m in the last six months as the value of the pound plummeted following the UK's vote for Brexit.

New figures from the Republic's Central Statistics Office show that there was a 23% boost in the number of trips to Northern Ireland in the first half of the year.

There were 221,000 trips in the period between January and June, up from 179,000 during the same period a year earlier.

And there were 476,000 nights spent here by visitors from the Republic, up 10%, from 434,000.

Cross-border visitors spent on average £31 more per night compared to the first six months of 2016 "due in part to the fact that more visitors stayed in hotel and guest accommodation", according to Tourism NI.

And while holidaymakers spent an additional 33% this year so far, rising to £78m, it was business visitors who made up the largest increase.

There was a 60% jump in spending by those here on work - rising to £21m.

"Value for money is a key motivator for Republic of Ireland residents and the favourable exchange rates have helped to entice more visitors from this key market and encouraged them to spend more, with the euro worth 11% more during January to June 2017 compared to the same period in 2016," said Naomi Waite, Tourism NI director of marketing.

"This positive 2017 performance also follows recent Tourism NI campaigns in the Republic, which had unprecedented industry participation and have led to even greater interest in and knowledge of Northern Ireland as a short break destination."

Tourism NI said that findings from a report published in June "suggests a positive outlook for the remainder of the year, with hotels and attractions most optimistic and Titanic Belfast reporting a 16% increase in Republic of Ireland visitors year to date". Titanic Belfast said it had enjoyed its busiest spell yet, with a 22% increase in visitors since April.

The tourist magnet welcomed almost 440,000 people through its doors between April and August.

That's up from 360,000 in 2016.

However, the Giant's Causeway is still the most popular tourist attraction.

There was an increase of 11% visitors last year, bringing annual numbers close to one million, according to the Northern Ireland Annual Tourism Statistics.

Last month Howard Hastings, who heads Hastings Hotels, said tourism funding in Northern Ireland "requires an urgent rethink".

The Visit Belfast chairman said "without action" our tourism industry risks seeing slowing levels of growth. He commented:"It is clearly time for Government to step up to the plate and to make a step change in its approach to investment in the marketing of Northern Ireland, for example in its allocation of funds to Tourism NI, to Tourism Ireland and other agencies."

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