Record Northern Ireland tourism figures for first quarter of 2017
A RECORD one million overnight trips were taken in Northern Ireland during January to March this year according to the latest tourism figures.
The latest NISRA statistics show an increase of six per cent in overnight trips on the same period in 2016, with growth reported across the board in the overseas, Great Britain and Republic of Ireland markets.
Visitors from out of state markets spent £117 million in the first quarter of the year, a 15 per cent rise, while those from all markets, including those from the north spent a record £170 million, a 7 per cent increase on the same period in 2016.
Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said the figures were encouraging, particularly the strong growth in the Republic of Ireland tourism market, with a 35 per cent increase in overnight visits reported in the 12 months to March 2017.
"Growth is evident from all markets, and overall the feedback we've received from the industry suggests an optimistic outlook for the remainder of the year," he said.
Chief executive of Hospitality Ulster Colin Neill said the figures show the importance of keeping the free movement of people after Brexit.
"What is very interesting from these figures is the fact that overnight visits from the Republic of Ireland surged 35 per cent across the 12 month period and for the first quarter of 2017 rose by 13 per cent. This far outstrips the growth in overnight visitors from any other market.
"It is clear that maintaining the free movement of people across the border is essential to the hospitality and tourism sector and for the general economy."
`Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, added:
“Overseas tourism delivers about £543 million per year for the Northern Ireland economy, helping to sustain valuable employment in local communities. And, I am pleased to report that sentiment in general for 2017 from our tourism partners overseas (including tour operators and carriers), as well as our industry partners here at home (including hoteliers and visitor attractions), is largely optimistic.”
NISRA accommodation statistics released last week show almost one million hotel rooms were sold in the first half of the year, with an average room occupancy reaching 70 per cent.
Guesthouses, guest accommodation and B&Bs also experienced significant levels of growth.
According to Tourism NI's latest industry barometer, more than three-fifths of attractions have reported increases in visitor numbers compared with January to June 2016.