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Fewer French and German visitors to Northern Ireland

Uncertainty over crossing the Irish border and weakening of the German economy is contributing, Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said.

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Tourism chief John McGrillen, right, said fewer French and German visitors are coming to NI (Tourism NI/PA).

Tourism chief John McGrillen, right, said fewer French and German visitors are coming to NI (Tourism NI/PA).

Tourism chief John McGrillen, right, said fewer French and German visitors are coming to NI (Tourism NI/PA).

Fewer French and German tourists are coming to Northern Ireland because of Brexit, a tourism chief said.

Uncertainty over crossing the Irish border and weakening of the German economy is contributing, Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen added.

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

He added: “Those are potential consequences of Brexit and uncertainty about being able to travel across the border and driving licences etc.”

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

“That sentiment issue does have an impact.”

There is a direct and indirect impact of that issue around consumer sentiment, with potential for less visitors from EuropeJohn McGrillen

He said European conference organisers were not booking in the UK and that had an effect in Northern Ireland.

“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.”

He said that was balanced by more tourists from the east coast of the US.

Mr McGrillen gave evidence to 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 considered a good value destination, particularly by holidaymakers from the Republic of Ireland.

He said it had to compete with the Republic to attract visitors who primarily arrived at Dublin airport and visited the west coast.

The marketing budget of tourism authorities in the Republic dwarfs that of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has around 3,000 small businesses which rely on tourism, the committee heard.

Many are people who had 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 online you did not exist, the executive added.

Tourism NI is promoting the country 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.

PA