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Tourism visits in the north have more than doubled since 1998

Published on 20 April 2023

Tourism image of Giant’s Causeway

Visitors to Northern Ireland’s main tourist attractions have more than doubled since the Good Friday Agreement was signed 25 years ago.

Tourism NI said visits had increased by 120 per cent from 7.5 million in 1998 to 16.5 million in the latest year.

The increase in tourism’s spending power was even more dramatic, soaring by 834 per cent from £32 million a quarter century ago to £299m.

Domestic holiday trips have increased from 543,000 in 1998 to 1.517 million, a rise of 179 per cent, with the amount spent by domestic visitors rising 271 per cent from £63m to £234m.

The figures were confirmed by the chair of Tourism NI, Ellvena Graham, who took part in the ‘Agreement 25’ event at Queen's University Belfast.

The figures span a significant period of expansion of the north’s tourism industry, with Titanic Belfast and the Game of Thrones tour joining old staples such as the Giant’s Causeway as major attractions.

The Tourism NI chair said major sporting events including the Irish Open, the Irish Open and the Giro d’Italia had also helped showcase the north to a global audience.

“The past three days has focused worldwide attention on Northern Ireland and once again highlighted the benefits of peace, not least for our tourism industry,” she said.

“The increase in visitors to the region since the Good Friday Agreement is testament to the hard work and vision of many people from across Northern Ireland and further afield and we should be proud of the huge increase in spend by out-of-state holiday visitors since 1998, a phenomenal achievement.

“We’ve also seen major investment in our tourism attractions with more exciting plans in the pipeline.”

The growth of the tourism industry has also prompted a major expansion of hotels and accommodation in the past 20 years.

There are now 141 hotels around Northern Ireland, three-quarters of which have been built or refurbished since 2003.

The 9,432 hotel bedroom count is now close to double the 4,900 rooms from 1998.