Twice as many tourists from North visit the South than visa-versa, conference told

Shared Island conference hears old images of Northern Ireland persist

More than twice as many cross-Border tourists go from Northern Ireland to the Republic rather than the other way around, a conference on tourism has been told.

A Shared Island report on cross-Border trade and services by the Economic Social Research Institute (ESRI) found approximately 1.4 million tourism trips are made from North to South with 600,000 trips made the other way despite the fact that the population of the Republic is 2.5 times that of Northern Ireland.

Speaking at a forum on cross-Border tourism, the Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said there was scope to "grow the flow" in both directions "for the benefit of the entire island."

The Minister told a Shared Island forum the Government is investing in the cross-Border Ulster Canal and Narrow Water Bridge projects which will provide blueways and greenways that will grow sustainable tourism in the Border areas.

Causeway Coastal Route

There are also plans to link the Wild Atlantic Way with the Causeway Coastal Route.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said a lot of people from the Republic had not been North of the Border. "There has been a lack of awareness and a lack of trust," he said.

“In my own generation, people have built up a certain image in their minds and that takes time to break down.”

Mr Gibbons said Tourism NI has done a great deal of work to “bring down those perceptions that linger so to speak and they have built a very credible product that makes it a much more attractive place.”

He said a large number of people from the South went North for the first time during the Covid-19 pandemic and were impressed by what they saw.

“You just have to keep on working on it. You can’t turn the dial overnight. It is a long-term sustainable build and you have to keep at that,” he said.

The goal of all-Ireland tourism is economic growth and better regional balanced development on the island, he stated.

Tourism Ireland is the agency that promotes the whole island.

Titanic Belfast chief executive Judith Owens said the opening of the attraction for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship had transformed the North's tourism industry.

When Titanic Belfast was opened 10 years ago, Belfast had a small selection of hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions.

Since then £800 million has been invested in hotels in Belfast with 40 projects still in development.