Cross-border traffic and tourism at an all-time high, official data suggests

A record number of cars crossed the border in 2023

EU anti-fraud investigators will be able to operate in Northern Ireland as part of the cross-border peace funds agreement
The volume of traffic crossing the border reached a record 48.3 million vehicles in 2023, official data shows.

Cross-border traffic and tourism has reached an all-time high on the island of Ireland, official data suggests.

The number of vehicles crossing the border passed 48 million for the first time in 2023, according to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) figures.

The data, which measures traffic at 15 border crossings, recorded 48.3 million vehicles in the 12 months to December 2023, including a record 37.15 million cars and just under 447,000 caravans.

While there are officially 208 border roads, the TII measures traffic at the busiest crossings, such as the N1/A1 at Jonesborough, the N2/A5 at Emyvale and the N14 at Lifford/Strabane.

The data showed bus traffic has not recovered to pre-Covid levels.

Numbers are steadily increasing every month, but the 369,992 buses in 2023 was still 26,000 below the 2019 record.

Surveys carried by the Republic’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) also show a significant increase in the number of people travelling north of the border for overnight trips.

The CSO estimates there were 1.3 million overnight trips in Northern Ireland by residents of the Republic in the 12 months to September 2023, which resulted in three million nights spent in the north, generating around €312m (£268m).

That was almost double the 742,000 trips for the corresponding period before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, which produced an estimated 1.85 million nights and generated around €151m (£130m).

Line graph showing a surge in  the number of overnight trips in the north by residents of the Republic since 2021.
CSO data estimating the number of overnight trips in the north by residents of the Republic.

The figures were published on Friday by the north’s official statistics body Nisra, as part of a large collection of data related to the tourism industry.

The data also showed the number of passengers at the north’s three airports has had not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels in 2023.

A total of 8.23 million passengers were recorded last year, including 5.96 million at Belfast International Airport and 2.12 million at Belfast City Airport.

Just 154,486 were recorded at City of Derry airport, which actually saw numbers fall last year.

Before the pandemic, air passenger numbers in Northern Ireland had hit an all-time high of 8.94 million.