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Brexit concerns forcing French and German tourists away from Northern Ireland, warns industry chief

Giant's Causeway

Fewer French and German tourists are coming to Northern Ireland because of Brexit, a tourism boss has claimed.

Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen blamed uncertainty over crossing the Irish border and the weakening of the German economy.

Strong demand from Americans has helped to compensate, but Mr McGrillen said 13-14% of French and German tourists were less likely to come here.

He added: "Those are potential consequences of Brexit and uncertainty about being able to travel across the border."

He said demand from Germany was down by between 10% and 30%.

He also claimed that European conference organisers were not booking in the UK, which has an effect here.

"Belfast's ability to secure conferences has diminished. There is a direct and indirect impact of that issue around consumer sentiment, with potential for less visitors from Europe," Mr McGrillen said.

The Tourism NI boss made the comments at a meeting of Stormont's economy committee.

He said Northern Ireland was not considered a staycation destination by people in the rest of the UK due to the need for a ferry or flight.

Northern Ireland was, however, considered a good-value destination, particularly by people in the Republic.

He said Northern Ireland had to compete with the Republic to attract visitors, who primarily arrive at Dublin airport and visit the west coast. The marketing budget of tourism authorities in the Republic dwarfs that in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has around 3,000 small businesses which rely on tourism, the committee heard. Many are people who have turned their passion into a business, Mr McGrillen said.

Often they are not well-connected online in a marketplace where if you were not visible on the internet, you did not exist, the executive added. Tourism NI is promoting the region in the shoulder season of autumn as a destination for good food.

The 'Embrace a Giant Spirit' brand is being used to market Northern Ireland as a destination.

Belfast Telegraph