Northern Ireland visitor numbers up to 4.5m, but tourists spending less
Visitor numbers to Northern Ireland have soared by 9% to 4.55 million, Stormont has revealed.
Official figures showed the leap in visitor numbers for the full year to June 2014.
Information on visitor numbers is based on trips made by overnight tourists from Great Britain (GB) and overseas, Republic of Ireland (ROI) as well as NI residents taking overnight trips within NI (Domestic Tourism).
When visits by NI residents are excluded, the number of external visitors increased by 2% to just under 1m when compared to the same period in 2014.
In the 12 months to June 2015, 67 cruise ships visited Northern Ireland, bringing with them 110,000 passengers and crew, according to the new figures from the NI Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).
But the total visitor spend is down by 4%, to £725m. Movements in foreign exchange rates are blamed for the decline.
The figures also show a significant increase in business visitors and increases in visitors from many of our external markets including Great Britain, North America and mainland Europe.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell said: "I am encouraged by these latest figures which show that visitor numbers in 2015 are continuing to rise ahead of the record numbers achieved in 2014.
"The tourism sector is becoming increasingly important to the Northern Ireland economy and it is important that we maintain the momentum built up over the last few years in showcasing Northern Ireland on the world stage as a great place to visit.
"Overall, the picture on tourism performance in the first half of 2015 is positive with a steady increase in our external visitors."
The minister added: "I also welcome the increase in the number of people coming here on business and it is important that we continue to grow this sector, as business tourists traditionally spend more."