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New figures show more Irish people than ever before are choosing to go on holiday to Northern Ireland

The number of Irish people holidaying in Northern Ireland increased by 7% between 2017 and 2018.

Titanic Belfast is one of Northern Ireland's major attractions.
Titanic Belfast is one of Northern Ireland's major attractions.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

IRISH TOURISTS ARE holidaying in Northern Ireland in greater numbers than ever before, with the latest figures showing a 7% increase in trips across the border. 

Holiday trips from Ireland to the North increased from 237,000 in 2017 to 255,000 in 2018, new figures released today from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency reveal. 

In 2017, tourists from the South spent £52.5 million. In 2018, this figure rose to £62.2 million – an increase of nearly £10 million. 

The total number of Irish visitors to Northern Ireland – to visit family, take a holiday or for business – stood at 591,000 – a 22.5% increase between 2017 and 2018. 

However, the total number of overnight trips in Northern Ireland- which includes trips by visitors to Northern Ireland and trips taken by Northern Irish residents – did not significantly increase between 2017 and 2018, remaining at around five million.

In July 2018, Tourism NI said that total visitor numbers were up 7% for the first three months of 2018. 

The latest figures suggest that Tourism NI’s strategy to attract Irish visitors to the North is succeeding over the long term – in 2012, there were only 188,000 overnight holiday trips by Irish visitors to Northern Ireland.

In recent years an increase in marketing funding has been used to target potential tourists across the border to Northern Ireland’s major attractions, such as the Giant’s Causeway and the Titanic Museum.

Internationally-acclaimed TV show Game of Thrones, which was filmed in Northern Ireland, has also been used by Tourism NI to attract visitors. In April, an exhibition based on the show was held in Belfast. 

In February, John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI – which is responsible for developing the North’s tourism – expressed concern about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Northern Irish tourism. 

“We could potentially see some decrease in growth in the short-term, while some of the uncertainty is around,” he said.

“My fear, quite frankly, around Brexit is if we ended up in a no-deal scenario and that happened to tip both the UK and the Republic of Ireland into a recession. Typically, in that scenario, what you find is discretionary spend reduces substantially.”

Tourism NI has been receiving additional funding from the Department of the Economy in order to help Northern Ireland’s tourism sector cope with Brexit. 

There are some health-warnings with the data. The Northern Ireland Statistics Office states in a short report released alongside the data that “users that are particularly interested in the number of visitors from ROI to use the figures with caution”, due largely to the fact that the data provided by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) could be subject to revision. 

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