Northern Ireland in the pink as tourism delivers for economy

Upcoming Giro D’Italia presents unrivalled advertising opportunity , says Enterprise minister

Pink bicycles are positioned in a field near the Antrim village of Balintoy. They have been painted pink to welcome the arrival of the Giro d’Italia cycle race whose race leader wears a pink jersey. Photograph:  Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

Pink bicycles are positioned in a field near the Antrim village of Balintoy. They have been painted pink to welcome the arrival of the Giro d’Italia cycle race whose race leader wears a pink jersey. Photograph: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

Fri, May 2, 2014, 09:07

Sport, history and hit television shows could deliver a £314 million boost for the local economy by 2017 according to a new report today on foreign tourist spending in Northern Ireland.

Research commissioned by Barclays Bank suggests that 16 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed, Northern Ireland is fast becoming a celebrated tourist destination – for certain fans.

Chief among them, according to Adrian Doran, head of corporate banking for Barclays in Northern Ireland, are Game of Thrones devotees, golf fans and keen Titanic followers.

Visitors from the Republic of Ireland account for the greatest proportion of tourist spend – some 47.9 per cent – with American tourist the next biggest spenders.

Northern Ireland is currently gearing up to host the Giro d’Italia on May 9th, one of the world’s biggest cycling events. The race sits alongside the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, as one of the “most prestigious races in the professional road cycling world circuit”, according to Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

She says the race will present Northern Ireland with an unrivalled advertising opportunity.

“It allows us to once again showcase our striking landscapes and stunning scenery, as the huge international audience for the Giro d’Italia means approximately 775 million people in 174 countries will view it on TV – the biggest global outreach we will have ever achieved.

“In recent years, we have developed a strong reputation for staging world-class events and I have no doubt the arrival of the Giro d’Italia will further enhance this, providing long term economic benefits,” she said.

Events like the Giro will help boost spending by foreign tourists, according to the Barclays study. It predicts this will reach £314 million by 2017, an increase of 33 per cent on 2013 figures.

It forecasts that overseas tourists will spend £148 million on hospitality and leisure – an increase of 32 per cent from £112 million in 2013 – and spend on retail will also rise by 37 per cent to £126 million (from £92 million in 2013).

Spending on accommodation by oversease visitors will increase from £52 million to £68 million by 2017, it suggests.

Mr Doran said: “Major sporting events in the next few years will undoubtedly attract additional overseas visitors to Northern Ireland, with Belfast hosting the opening stages of the Giro D’Italia this month, and the Irish Open coming to Royal County Down in 2015 and Lough Erne in 2017.

“In addition, Northern Ireland’s growing reputation within the film and TV industry, and the incredible popularity of the Titanic Visitor Centre will further help to bolster tourism and contribute to predictions for an increase in spending by overseas tourists.”