Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: How many tourists visited Northern Ireland this year?

By Rachel Martin

More tourists than ever before are expected to flock to Northern Ireland by the end of the year.

Tourism Ireland said 2016 was set to be the best year ever for overseas visitors, with almost 2.1 million expected to fly or sail into the region.

The number is up by 6% compared to last year, when around 1.98 million overseas visitors made the trip here.

It also marks the sixth year in a row that Northern Ireland has welcomed its highest number of overseas tourists.

The average holidaymaker's spend is additionally on the rise. It is expected that by the end of this year, tourists will have spent more than £527m - 9% more than the previous 12 months.

Earlier this month, Tourism Ireland launched its marketing plans for the year ahead with a target to welcome 2.15 million visitors to the region in 2017 - 500,000 extra people.

The aim to raise tourist numbers even further next year comes despite United Airlines' decision to scrap its route from Belfast to Newark in the US.

The huge blow will see the province lose its only transatlantic flight by the end of January.

However, Tourism Ireland said North America remained a priority market, adding that 75% of tourists to Northern Ireland come to the region through the Republic.

The cross-border body has used attractions such as Northern Ireland's Year of Food and Drink, Titanic Belfast, the Causeway Coastal Route, Game of Thrones and the Dark Hedges to boost numbers.

Tourism Ireland estimated that its Game of Thrones strategy reached approximately 61 million people.

Chief executive Niall Gibbons claimed that the region would begin next year "in a position of strength".

Mr Gibbons added that major sporting events would help the body further push tourism in Northern Ireland.

He explained: "We will continue our successful partnership with HBO (Game of Thrones maker) to highlight Northern Ireland - through the exciting events of Game of Thrones - on the global stage.

"And Tourism Ireland will also leverage the tourism benefits of major sporting events, including the Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club in July, and the semi-finals and final of the Women's Rugby World Cup, which will take place in Belfast in August next year."

Belfast Telegraph


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