Weak pound helps draw influx of southern visitors to North
Despite greater numbers, visitors spend less than in the same quarter last year
The visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim
Weak sterling helped to coax more than 140,000 residents from the South to Northern Ireland for an overnight trip during the first three months of this year and spend more than £20 million (€22.5 million), latest tourism statistics show.
According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency there was a 34 per cent increase year on year in the number of visitors from the South who decided to take an overnight trip to the North in the first quarter of 2019.
In the first three months of this year 140,810 visitors from the South travelled to the North, compared with 105,423 in the first quarter of 2018.
But although there were greater numbers of visitors from the Republic to Northern Ireland during quarter one of this year, they spent less than they did in the first three months of 2018.
During their trip this year visitors from the Republic spent more than £20.2 million. However, last year in the first quarter of the year they spent more than £22.5 million.
According to a spokeswoman for government agency Tourism NI, although the weakness of the pound against the euro is still a factor, it is not the only attraction for southern visitors heading north.
She said major investment projects in new and existing hotels and increased awareness of visitor attractions and the food and drink sector were continuing to woo visitors from Ireland and overseas countries to the North.
“More than one million overnight trips were taken in the first quarter of 2019 with a very strong performance on holiday trips across all markets.
“This follows record-breaking performance for tourism in Northern Ireland in 2018, which delivered increases across all indicators. Tourism NI increased its marketing activity in the Republic of Ireland in early 2019, which has contributed to a 34 per cent increase in trips. Once six-month figures are available later in the year, we will have a fuller picture of tourism trends for 2019,” she said.
Business and pleasure
According to the agency, latest tourism statistics also highlight that there was also a 30 per cent increase in the number of people living in the South who made overnight trips to the North over the 12 months to March 2019.
Total overnight stays by residents of the South in Northern Ireland increased from 482,229 in the 12 months to March 2018 to 626,472 in the 12-month period to March of this year.
Research suggests that the key reason residents from the Republic travelled to the North was for a holiday, which accounted for more than 1.3 million of overnight trips.
But statistics also highlight a 60 per cent jump – 240,447 people – who said they made overnight trips to Northern Ireland to visit friends and relatives during the 12 months to March this year and a 49 per cent increase in the number of people – 38,862 – who took an overnight stay in the North for business reasons.
According to the research agency, overall there was a 5 per cent increase in the total number of overnight trips taken in the North by both people living on the island and also overseas visitors during the 12 months to March 2019, to hit a high of more than 5.1 million.
This helped push the annual tourism expenditure total to £963 million over the period.