Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland tourism: Increase in outside visitors in 2014

The Giant's Causeway Image copyright Martina Gardiner
Image caption The Giant's Causeway was Northern Ireland's number one tourist attraction in 2014

The number of outside visitors to Northern Ireland increased in 2014 - but they spent less than in the previous year.

The strong pound "may have influenced this", according a report on annual tourism statistics.

It said spend by those coming to Northern Ireland fell by 3% to £514m.

This was despite a 4% jump in numbers from the external market - the Republic of Ireland, Britain and beyond.

Last year, the Giro d'Italia was the big showpiece event.

Northern Ireland tourism is heavily dependent on local people taking breaks at home.

They accounted for half the 4.5m overnight trips in 2014, up 11% on the previous year.

Image copyright Peter Macdiarmid
Image caption Titanic Belfast attracted 643,000 visitors in 2014

The Giant's Causeway was the number one attraction.

It drew 788,000 visitors, while Titanic Belfast ranked second with 643,000 visitors.

The figures are based on surveys and published through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

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Media captionLaura McCorry from Tourism NI said the figures showed investment in events was working on the ground

Its minister Jonathan Bell said: "I am particularly pleased the number of external visitors continues to rise.

"They are now at record levels having exceeded previous peak figures before the recession in 2007."

Analysis: BBC NI business correspondent Julian O'Neill

Visitor figures are now at record levels having exceeded previous peak figures before the recession in 2007.

Overall, Northern Ireland is well on course to meet tourism goals set by the Stormont executive.

Leaving aside 'stay-cationers', the sector needs to grow external markets because this is what brings additional revenue to the economy.

In 2014 it achieved this.

But growth in outside visitors was not as impressive as that achieved by the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain.

And talking of the Republic, it remains a bit of a problem - overnight trips from there were down by 3%.

You can single out any number of statistics - mostly positive, fewer negative.

Statistics, by the way, which have significant margins of error.

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