Northern Ireland

Large drop in tourists to Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway
Image caption The Giants Causeway is one of NI's biggest tourist attractions

Official figures suggest a big fall in the number of tourists coming to Northern Ireland.

The statistics from the Department for Enterprise show the number of overseas visitors staying at least one night has fallen by 12% compared to 2011.

Visitors from Great Britain are down 15% and there is a 20% fall for the rest of Europe.

However, visitors from North America are up 18% while hotel room occupancy rates are up 11%.

The figures cover the period January-September 2012, which coincided with a major marketing push.

However, tourism minister Arlene Foster said more than 600,000 people had visited Titanic Belfast since it opened at the end of March.

She said the Giant's Causeway had been a "tremendous success" with more than 300,000 visitors.


"The most interesting thing for me in the statistics that the companies give to me - both the National Trust and Titanic Belfast - is that over 60% of those people are from outside of Northern Ireland.

"There is something wrong there, because NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) are telling me that we have a fall of 12% in our visitors from outside of state, whereas I look to Titanic Belfast and I look to the Giant's Causeway, and they're telling me that 60% of their visitors are from out of state.

"So what is going on in relation to these statistics?"

Meanwhile, separate figures from the Republic of Ireland suggest the number of tourists visiting the country has risen slightly in the period between August and October.

The figures from the Central Statistics Office show a 1.6% rise in visitors compared to the same period in 2011.

Trips by Americans to Ireland increased by 14.9% to while the number of visitors from Great Britain decreased by 4.5%.

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