Cross-Border Visitors Boost NI Tourism

There has been a further fillip for Northern Ireland's tourism industry today with news of a boost of more than a quarter in cross-border visitors.

Statistics released today show a 26% increase in the number of holidaymakers to Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland last year, attracted by such locations as Fermanagh's Lusty Beg Island, pictured here by Brian McCalden.

In 2008, 367,000 trips were made to Northern Ireland by Republic of Ireland residents, representing a 14% increase on the previous year. Revenue also increased by 16% to almost £50million, last year.

Welcoming the news, the NI Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said: "This is very positive news and a welcome boost to the industry and the wider economy.

"The increase in visitor numbers has exceeded expectations for growth in 2008 and the statistics reinforce that Northern Ireland has a unique and appealing range of things to see and do.

"Closer to home markets are key to delivering long term growth for our tourism industry.

"Short term opportunities are available through the strong euro, however to maximise the benefits in the future we must continue to promote an excellent and value for money experience across Northern Ireland," she said.

During the last year the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, (NITB) has been investing heavily in marketing Northern Ireland both domestically and within the Republic of Ireland to residents and international visitors.

This has included a pro-active programme of advertising campaigns aimed at increasing awareness of the key things to see and do on a short break.

Alongside this, a PR campaign was delivered in the Republic of Ireland to position Northern Ireland as a must visit, safe and secure destination.

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Operating Officer at NITB said: "Our most recent campaign was launched in spring of this year to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland markets and was created to encourage both day trips and short breaks in Northern Ireland.

"The amount invested across both markets was just over £2million and the results of the campaign are very tangible.

"Evaluation of the Republic market indicates that 64% of the adult population claim to have seen or heard the campaign and as a result, 64,000 people have taken or booked a short break. A further 170,000 people have chosen to take a day trip from the Republic," she said.

"Particularly pleasing is the significant rise in pure holiday visitors from the Republic of Ireland, demonstrating that visitors from this market are not simply here for shopping and day trips.

"More and more visitors are coming here to experience the many attractions that Northern Ireland has to offer," the NITB said.

NITB is currently preparing to launch its summer campaign which will run from June to September across all formats including TV, radio, press, outdoor and online and will be strongly represented at key entry and tourist sites.

However, there's much still to be done, especially on cleanliness.

Only 30% of Northern Ireland beaches have been recommended for bathing in this year's Good Beach Guide.

The Marine Conservation Society (MSC) recommendation was given to seven of 23 tested beaches in the province - three beaches less than last year.

See: NI Beach Quality Drops


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