Tourism spend in the north edges closer to £1 billion mark

Annual visitor spend in Northern Ireland has edged closer to the £1 billion mark according to the latest figures.
Gareth McKeown

ANNUAL visitor spend in the north is edging closer to the £1 billion mark, the latest figures show.

New data published by NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) shows a five per cent increase in overnight trips

from the 4.62m recorded between April 2016 and March 2017 to the 4.84m recorded in the 12 months to April. The overall nights has also increased by eight per cent in the same period from 15.5m to 16.7m. Overall expenditure meanwhile has jumped by 9 per cent to just shy of £940m.

The figures, which also cover the first quarter of the year show an uplift in tourism spend of 8 per cent (£13m) in comparison to the same period in 2017, with almost £180m spent by tourism in the first three months of the year. The overall number of overnight trips has fallen marginally however from 999,675 to 988,572.

The release of the figures coincided with the launch of Tourism NI's Annual review, which highlights a record 2017, boosted by

local tourist attractions the Giant's Causeway and Titanic Belfast. Between January and December last year the former welcomed over a million people, while the latter enjoyed its busiest year to date, with 771,000 visitors through the doors.

Tourism NI chief executive, John McGrillen described it as a "really strong year for tourism".

“Tourism contributed some £2.5 million per day to the local economy, making tourism a key driver of our economic growth. Tourism creates jobs right across Northern Ireland and helps our economy prosper all year round. While we are enjoying the success of a record year, we are ambitious to grow and develop tourism even more. In order to compete on a global scale we must continue to develop new and unique visitor attractions.”

Reflecting on the latest NISRA figures Mr McGrillen said the early signs for 2018 are positive.

“These early signs bode well for what will be another significant year for tourism and next July the eyes of the world will be on Northern Ireland when The 148th Open, Royal Portrush which is already almost sold out, takes place," he added.

Hospitality Ulster chief executive, Colin Neill said the latest tourism figures are to be welcomed.

"Tourists spent almost £940 million in the 12 months to April 2018. That is a remarkable figure and shows that we are edging close to £1bn in tourist spending per year. That money helps support businesses across Northern Ireland and is a massive boost to the overall economy," Mr Neill said.

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