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NISRA Statistical Press Release – Tourism Statistics

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

The Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA) today published its Tourism Statistics Bulletin for the 12 months period to June 2013 and the first six months (January to June) of 2013.

The bulletin includes official statistics from a number of NISRA sources as well as estimates supplied by organisations in the Republic of Ireland to provide an overall assessment of tourism activity in Northern Ireland. 

The Tourism Statistics Bulletin can be accessed via


Annual Results – July 2012 to June 2013

1. The estimated number of overnight trips to Northern Ireland (NI) by all visitors (NI residents and non residents combined) in the period July 2012 – June 2013 increased by 3% compared to the same 12 month period in 2011-12.

2. Tourist expenditure during these overnight trips increased over the same period by 10%, when compared to 2011-12. 

3. The estimated number of overnight visitors from outside NI (GB, Overseas and RoI residents) increased by 3% to just over 2 million in the 12 months to June 2013, compared to the previous 12 months. The expenditure associated with these trips also increased by 3%. 

Year to Date Results - All visitors – January to June 2013

4. The number of visitor trips in NI for the first 6 months of 2013 (January-June) shows a 10% increase (to 1.95 million) on the same period in the previous year. This information is based on trips made by both NI residents and those from outside NI. Expenditure on these trips also increased by 16% over the period. This was a higher rate of growth for both trips and expenditure than that reported for the 12 month period to June 2013 when compared to the previous year (see paragraphs 1 and 2 above). 

Year to Date Results - External visitors – January to June 2013

5. When visits by NI residents are excluded, the estimated number of visitor trips increased by 6% but expenditure decreased by -1% in the first 6 months of 2013. The increase in external visitors in the first half of 2013, relative to the same period in 2012, was due to increased visits from GB residents (+18%), with no change in the number of overseas visitors and a fall in the number visiting from RoI (-14%). 

6. The 6% increase in external visitors also reflected an increase in the number of trips made by such visitors to NI to visit friends or relatives (+19%) and for business purposes (+8%) in the first half of 2013. Both holiday and ‘other’ visits saw decreases of -9% and -28% respectively when compared with the same period in 2012.

7. The fall (-9%) in the number of visits for holiday purposes was mainly due to a marked fall in the number of overnight (holiday) visitors from RoI (-44%). Despite this fall in the RoI market, there was an increase in the number of holiday visits from GB residents (+10%) and those from overseas markets (+3%). 

Cruise Ship Arrivals (January - June 2013)

8. During January – June 2013, 21 cruise ships docked in Belfast, with 26,445 passengers and 10,575 crew onboard. There were also 3 cruise ship visits to Londonderry.


9. Estimates for both 2012-13 and the first 6 months to June 2013 show that overall visitor numbers (by residents and non residents combined) are increasing. There is also evidence that the rate of growth in external visitor numbers (+6%) in the latest 6 months is higher than for the last 12 months as a whole (+3%). 

10. Most of the growth in the most recent 6 months by external visitors was due to increases in the number of visits to see friends and relatives in Northern Ireland. There has been some decline in the numbers of such visitors visiting for holiday purposes (-9%), though this has mostly been due to a fall in holiday visitors from the RoI. Holiday visits from GB and overseas residents increased in the most recent 6 months (by 10% and 3% respectively). 

11. Although visitor numbers (+10%) and visitor nights (+5%) increased in the first 6 months of 2013 for all visitors (i.e. resident and non resident), hotel room occupancy rates fell by -3 percentage points (to 60%) compared to the same period last year. This partly reflects the fact that over two-thirds of the increase in overnight visitors was for the purpose of visiting friends and relatives and such visitors may be less likely to stay in hotels. It should also be noted that while there was an overall increase of 1% in holiday visits by all visitors, the estimated number of holiday visits by external visitors fell by 9% in the first half of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012. It is likely that the decline in external holiday visitors has contributed to the reduction in hotel occupancy rates. 

12. Annual tourism activity in terms of trips by all visitors (4.1 million trips by resident and non resident overnight visitors combined) in the 12 months to June 2013, is just below the annual visitor target (4.2 million) set for December 2014 in the Programme for Government (PfG). Tourist expenditure in the most recent 12 months has already exceeded the PfG expenditure target (£676 million).

Notes to editors:


1. The definitions of tourist activity used in this report are based on the International Recommendations on Tourism Statistics (IRTS, 2008) from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). This defines tourism by the activities of persons identified as visitors. A visitor is someone who is making a visit to a main destination outside his/her usual environment for less than a year for any main purpose including holidays, leisure and recreation, business, health, education or other purposes, as well as visiting friends and relatives. This scope is much wider than the traditional perception of tourists, which includes only those travelling for leisure. 

2. The NISRA report relates to all overnight tourists who visit NI including external visitors (from (i) Great Britain (GB) and overseas markets (ii) the Republic of Ireland (RoI)) as well as domestic tourists (iii) NI residents taking overnight trips within NI. 

3. The methodology used in the report is subject to ongoing development and these estimates are therefore deemed to be experimental statistics in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics

4. While this publication provides information on tourists from each of these areas, NISRA does not have direct responsibility for the collection of all such information, some of which is provided from organisations in the RoI:- 
a. Information on GB and all other overseas visitors departing via NI ports and terminals is provided by NISRA’s NI Passenger Survey.
b. Information relating to NI residents’ overnight visits within NI is provided by NISRA’s Continuous Household Survey 
c. Information on GB and all other overseas visitors arriving via RoI ports and terminals is provided by Fáilte Ireland. 
d. Information on visitors from RoI is provided by Central Statistics Office in the RoI.

5. Some of the estimates are based on relatively small sample sizes and will have an associated degree of sampling error. Where small sample sizes occur, these have been highlighted in the relevant tables. Confidence intervals are not provided for RoI surveys and have been estimated using confidence intervals around NISRA surveys estimates. This has enabled the reporting of combined confidence intervals for all sources to inform users of the relative quality of the estimates (see section on data quality in the background notes of the statistical bulletin). 

6. More detailed information on data sources and methodology can be found at the link above and at the individual survey links on the Tourism Statistics Branch website at

7. This publication is the second in a new quarterly format that brings together complete information from a range of sources and has been developed in direct response to a user consultation. User views are welcome at any time in line with the Code of Practice and any comments on the methodology or reporting format used in this report can be forwarded to 

8. The measures reported in this publication are the primary means of monitoring progress towards Programme for Government (PfG) targets related to tourism. These aimed to increase visitor numbers to 4.2 million and tourist revenue to £676 million by December 2014.

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