Overseas tourism set to generate £633m for north's economy in 2019
OVERSEAS tourism is set to generate £633 million for the Northern Ireland economy in 2019, according to new industry body estimates .
Tourism Ireland is targeting an 8 per cent growth in overseas revenue for the north next year on the back of a record 2018.
As part of its €45m marketing strategy for 2019, the organisation is planning to leverage "once-in-a-lifetime opportunities" for Northern Ireland tourism, which include the final season of Game of Thrones, due to be aired in the spring and the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
The plans to grow the local tourism market come on the back of what is set to be an unparalleled 2018.
The latest estimates indicate that, by year end, around 2.23 million people will have visited Northern Ireland, representing a 3 per cent increase over 2017.
Meanwhile revenue generated by international visitors is expected to be £589m - a 4 per cent jump from the previous year, which is helping to sustain 65,000 jobs across the north.
Looking ahead Tourism Ireland believe that Northern Ireland will only increase in popularity as an international destination.
“We are heading into 2019 in a position of some strength, based on the success of 2018,” Tourism Ireland CEO, Niall Gibbons said.
"Our aim is to position Northern Ireland as a year-round, ‘must visit’ destination and to ensure that the contribution of overseas tourism to the local economy continues to expand."
The tourism body's new global campaign - ‘Fill your Heart with Ireland’ also features the north at its core.
"It will feature locations that have been less visited by overseas visitors and will also highlight outdoor activities like cycling, walking and kayaking.
"We are confident that our new campaign will set Northern Ireland apart from our competitor destinations and help deliver another record year for overseas tourism in 2019," Mr Gibbons added.
The Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance (NITA) welcomed the latest marketing campaign, but warned that Brexit uncertainty could diminish its benefits.
Chief executive, Doreen McKenzie said political decision making is now even more important than cash injections.
“Northern Ireland is making up for a lot of lost ground and tourism remains vulnerable. Currently the possibility of a hard Brexit is putting a brake on investment and the development of a truly sustainable future for our industry."
"Tourism Ireland is to be congratulated on powering through the problems and seeking to capitalise on opportunity, and that’s an attitude we’d like to see reflected in political debate," she added.