DUBLIN: More tourists are now visiting Northern Ireland with an extra £86 million pumped into the local economy last year from overnight stays. New government figures show that Belfast is growing its share of the tourism market in the north, with almost a third of visitors choosing Belfast as their destination of choice.
In 2016 an estimated 1.5 million tourists enjoyed an overnight stay in Belfast, 31 per cent of the total 4.7 million visitors to the north. That figure rose slightly on the previous year, with total spend also rising in comparison to the previous 12 months. The Causeway Coast and Glens council district ranked second behind Belfast, while the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon council area saw the lowest number of overnight visitors, an estimated 144,977. The figures state that tourists brought £850 million into the local economy last year, 39 per cent of which was spent in Belfast (£334 million), with an overall increased spend of over £86 million across all council areas.
Belfast saw the biggest increase year-on-year, with an additional £55 million spent within the city council area. The strong Belfast figures were extended to the hotel trade, with the city selling 991,000 rooms in the course of last year and holding a 79 per cent room occupancy level, the highest out of all Northern Ireland regions. The Belfast district has the largest number of hotel rooms in the north with 3,437 rooms, or 43 per cent of the Northern Ireland total. The majority of visitors from outside Northern Ireland were from Great Britain, roughly 1.4 million and this was followed by Europe and North America. The chief executive of Hospitality Ulster Colin Neill said the figures showed the importance of the tourism sector to the local economy. “While the overall numbers are most certainly positive, they also show that there is more need for investment and promotion in regions of Northern Ireland that aren’t as well established as tourist destinations in order that the benefits of tourism and hospitality are more evenly spread.”