Tourism statistics released last week show that Northern Ireland has a strong offering for visitors and the tourism industry can recover, Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said.
Figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency showed that in 2019 tourism generated £1billion in revenue for the first time, an increase of 8% on 2018.
The statistics also showed an increase of 28% from 2018 in overnight trips taken by Republic of Ireland residents, with spend by those visitors up by 31%.
Commenting on the statistics, the Minister said: “Northern Ireland’s tourism industry is facing extremely challenging conditions at the moment, and I am doing all I can to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the sector. However, I am encouraged that these statistics give us solid evidence that we can recover.
“The fact that the industry generated more than £1billion in revenue last year for the first time is very heartening. The 9% increase in tourism employee figures from 2017 levels is also to be welcomed.
“We have shown that we can host international events such as The Open Championship, which are key drivers of growth. And we will do so again.”
The Minister added: “Through the Tourism Recovery Steering Group that I established, which includes representatives from across the industry, we will help to steer a course for recovery of the sector.
“These statistics show that Northern Ireland has the product – and the people – to attract visitors, generate revenue, and have hope for the future.”
Tourism NI’s Chief Executive, John McGrillen said: “The 2019 tourism statistics released by NISRA, whilst welcome, are really bittersweet. The figures show how well the tourism industry was performing before the current crisis resulting from Covid-19. They do however show the growing interest in Northern Ireland as a tourism destination, particularly in close-to-home markets.
“I am particularly pleased by the phenomenal growth in visitor spend from the Republic of Ireland which had doubled in just three years. Visitors from across the border and domestic holidaymakers proved to be a lifeline for many tourism businesses this summer and will be vitally important in helping us return to growth in 2021.”
The 2019 NISRA annual tourism statistics publications are available at: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/annual-tourism-statistics-publications