Figures released today that 1.98million tourists from external markets visited Northern Ireland in 2012 – an increase of 3% on the 2011 figure.
Overall tourist expenditure in Northern Ireland (NI) grew by 7% (£42 million) between 2011 and 2012, directly contributing an estimated £683million to the economy. This figure includes spending by overnight tourists from the Republic of Ireland (ROI), Great Britain (GB) and overseas as well as NI residents taking overnight trips within NI (Domestic Tourism).
The figures also show that significantly more of our visitors came to Northern Ireland for a holiday in 2012, rather than visiting friends and relatives.
Commenting on the figures, Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said that the growth was in particular due to the NI2012 campaign, and that the increase of overnight visitors confirmed NITB’s independent evaluation of the campaign that showed it directly generated around £18m additional to the NI economy.
The number of visitors from the Republic of Ireland increased by 60,000 in 2012 – a rise of 16%.
Average hotel room occupancy in 2012 was 65%, an increase of 7% on the previous year, and vists to tourist attractions was up 6% over the year to 12.8million.
Arlene Foster said this showed that, if you give tourists more to see and do while they are here, they will spend more money and the economy as a whole will benefit.
Overall overnight visitor numbers (domestic and external) were virtually unchanged at 3,965,000 in 2012, compared to 3,960,000 in 2011.
There was, however, a decline last year in the numbers travelling here to visit friends and relatives. However, our overall growth compares well with Britain which, despite the Olympics, showed only 1% growth for 2012. The Republic showed zero growth and in fact had a 4% reduction in GB visitors.
The Minister added that Derry’s status as City of Culture will be a key motor for growth, and especially with the World Police and Fire Games next month, leaves the north well on its way to achieving our 2014 targets.
This in turn keeps us on track to achieve the long term goal to make tourism in Northern Ireland a £1 billion industry by 2020.
It is also important to note that cruise ships are not included in these official overnight visitor figures. By the end of the 2012 cruise season Belfast welcomed 45 cruise ships bringing 80,000 passengers and crew, with a further eight ships visiting Derry. 2013 promises a further increase with 60 ships and an estimated 115,000 passengers due to visit Belfast, generating a possible £6million local spend.