Weaker sterling drives 80% rise in visits to North from Republic

Visitors from State took 105,000 trips to North in first three months of year

Weak sterling encouraged more visitors from the Republic to travel to the North in the first three months of the year, according to new tourism statistics. The numbers show visitors from the State took 105,000 trips to the North and spent £19 million (€21 million) – nearly 80 per cent more than they did the over same period in 2016.

The majority of these trips – 58,000 – were to visit friends and family but some 26,000 made the journey purely for holiday reasons and there was also a 194 per cent jump to 12,000 in the number of people from the Republic making business trips.

Overall the latest quarterly tourism figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) show a record one million overnight trips were taken in the North by both visitors and local residents during the three months to March.

This in turn delivered a record visitor spend of £170 million which equated to an average spend each day of about £1.9 million.


John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI, the Northern Ireland agency responsible for the development of tourism, said the increase in visitor spend was driven by tourists who benefit most from weaker sterling.

“I am particularly encouraged by the strong growth in Republic of Ireland trips and spend, with a welcome 36 per cent increase in Republic of Ireland holiday trips.

“The depreciating pound continues to present opportunities and our research confirms the positive results, with hotels generally reporting an excellent six months to June 2017,” Mr McGrillen said.

Holidays at home

The latest figures also show that more residents in the North took holiday trips at home in the first quarter of this year, with a total 320,000 people holidaying at home over the three months to March – 33,000 more than over the same period last year.

According to Tourism Ireland, which promotes Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland overseas, "iconic experiences" such as visiting Game of Thrones locations , Titanic Belfast and the Giant's Causeway continue to be big draws for overseas visitors.

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said: "Figures published by NISRA confirm that we welcomed almost 407,000 overseas visitors to Northern Ireland in the first quarter of 2017, an increase of 8 per cent over the same three-month period in 2016. Overseas visitors delivered more than £98 million for the local economy, up 7 per cent on quarter one in 2016."

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business