Belfast Telegraph

Figures show increase in visitors

The number of visitors to Northern Ireland increased by 4% to two million in the last financial year, it was revealed.

Estimated spending rose by a tenth, with the start of the UK City of Culture year in Derry and the campaign by retailers to encourage visits to Belfast's city centre despite the flags protests partly responsible, official research showed. Numbers from the Republic increased by 9% and from Great Britain by 5%.

Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, said hoteliers had enjoyed a very good summer.

She said: "It has been a very strong summer. The general consensus around town is that the weather has been good, a lot of the visitors have been from the US."

She said events like the World Police and Fire Games also had an effect.

The positive figures follow results suggesting the Republic has emerged from recession and the economy in Great Britain is also recovering.

Separate information from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) showed the overall estimated number of trips in Northern Ireland by external visitors and included those by local residents. That total increased by 1% to four million in the financial year to last March compared to the previous year.

There was a 10% rise in expenditure to £698 million over the same period. Most of the increase was due to more residents visiting friends and relatives within Northern Ireland.

However, the estimated number of visitors coming to the region from outside to see friends was down by 4% in the year to March. Conversely, the total of holiday visits by visitors from outside Northern Ireland increased by a fifth.

A Nisra statement said: "The availability of additional air routes to Great Britain may also have contributed to growth in visitor numbers from this market."

Separately, the most recent estimates for all tourist activity in Northern Ireland from January to March 2013, compared to the same period in the previous year, showed 17% growth.

Around 60% of the increase in total visitor numbers from January to March this year was due to more overnight visits by local residents seeing friends and relatives.

There was also an increased number of holiday and business visits compared to the first quarter of last year.

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