Visitor numbers on the rise in the Province says Tourism NI CEO

John McGrillen
John McGrillen

Hot on the heels of Titanic Belfast and The Dark Hedges being named as top worldwide tourist attractions, Tourism NI confirmed the number of people visiting Northern Ireland was on the increase.

The CEO of NI’s tourist board, John McGrillen, said the number of people staying the night in guest accommodation in the Province was up by nearly 10%.

The Dark Hedges. Picture by Michael Cooper

The Dark Hedges. Picture by Michael Cooper

Meanwhile the country experienced the best ever October on record for visitors.

The news comes as Northern Ireland attractions continue to make waves in the global tourism market.

Last week Titanic Belfast was named as the world’s number one tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards and this week Architectural Digest magazine, published in the USA, named the Dark Hedges at number seven in its top 10 of the most beautiful streets on the planet.

The tree-lined stretch in Ballymoney, which doubles as King’s Road in Games of Thrones, also found itself on a list of the world’s most enchanting spots in a poll run by the Culturetrip website.

John McGrillen, Tourism NI CEO, said: “The news that Titanic Belfast has been recognised as the world’s leading visitor attraction, and now the fact that the Dark Hedges has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful attractions, will further broaden our appeal, particularly in new and developing overseas markets.

“As we head into 2017 and plan for major events including the Irish Open, the Gran Fondo, the Women’s U19 UEFA Championship and the Women’s Rugby World Cup, as well as marketing new products from Seamus Heaney’s HomePlace to Belfast Waterfront, we are hugely encouraged by tourism’s upward trend.

“This trend was confirmed again by latest occupancy statistics showing a 9% increase in bed-spaces sold in hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and guest accommodation across January to October 2016, which equates to 284,100 additional bed-spaces sold compared with January to October 2015.”

Mr McGrillen confirmed that hotels achieved 55% bed-space occupancy in October which is the highest ever recorded for the month of October.

It comes on the back of Tourism Ireland’s £7million autumn promotional campaign, to boost late-season travel to Northern Ireland from around the world. In the summer the same body promoted the Province’s key attractions to potential visitors in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

Some of NI’s newest tourist attractions include HMS Caroline, Apprentice Boys of Derry Siege Museum, CS Lewis Square, the newly refurbished Enniskillen Castle, Seamus Heaney HomePlace and the Taste and Tour Food Tours.