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Northern Ireland attracted almost a million tourists in six months

Almost one million visitors have been welcomed to Northern Ireland in the first half of 2017.

The total of 973,000 visitors showed an increase of 4% on the first half of 2016.

On Monday ten Northern Ireland tourism businesses travelled to London to join Tourism Ireland at the World Travel Market.

This heralds the start of Northern Ireland's promotional drive overseas for the 2018 season.

Over the next three days, the Northern Ireland companies will engage in thousands of meetings with GB and international tour operators – to negotiate and exchange contracts for 2018.

It will hope to make Northern Ireland stand out from the crowd by highlighting attractions such as the Game of Thrones connection, the Giant's Causeway, Titanic Belfast and many more.

Organisers estimate that almost £3 billion’s worth of business was done at last year’s WTM.

CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said: “The large representation of Northern Ireland companies at World Travel Market once again this year is extremely welcome – and essential in the highly competitive global marketplace.

"I am pleased to report that we have seen growth in visitor numbers to Northern Ireland from around the world this year, with the latest NISRA figures confirming that we welcomed 973,000 overseas visitors in the first half of 2017, up +4% on H1 in 2016. Tourism Ireland has been rolling out an extensive promotional programme throughout 2017, showcasing Northern Ireland around the world to prospective holidaymakers.

“The recent inclusion of Belfast and the Causeway Coast as the Number One Region in the world in ‘Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018’ is wonderful news and will surely help to inspire travellers everywhere to put Belfast, the Causeway Coast and Northern Ireland on their holiday wish-list next year.

"Tourism Ireland will take every opportunity to maximise this accolade for Northern Ireland over the coming weeks and months. Our aim is to deliver further success in 2018 and beyond, to ensure that Northern Ireland continues to increase its share of the global travel business.”

Overseas tourism delivers about £543 million per year for the Northern Ireland economy.

Last month the world's largest travel guide book named Belfast and the Causeway Coast as 2018's number one region to visit.

Lonely Planet's annual list of destinations sets travel trends for the coming year, and the Northern Irish region beat out the Julian Alps in Slovenia, Alaska in the United States and Languedoc-Rousillon in France to top the list.

The Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2018 guide praises the Causeway Coast for its "timeless beauty and high-grade distractions - golf, whiskey and some of the world's most famous rocks - are more popular now than ever".

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