Northern Ireland

Belfast tourism 'on the crest of a wave'

Titanic Belfast
Image caption Attractions such as Titanic Belfast are leading the charge in the city's tourism offering

Belfast is increasing its market share of Northern Ireland tourism, according to official statistics.

There were 1.5m overnight trips to the city in 2016, which equates to almost a third of all tourism traffic to the region.

The area-by-area analysis is published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

The Causeway Coast and Glens council district is ranked second behind Belfast.

Image caption Cruise liners are visiting Belfast in record numbers

But its overnight visitor numbers fell by around 100,000 from 2015 to 810,000.

Northern Ireland's tourism sector is generally on the crest of a wave, with the weak pound driving growth in external visitors.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Giant's Causeway remains a major draw for tourists

Belfast's strong performance is reflected in figures for the hotel trade.

The city's hotels sold 991,000 rooms in the course of last year.

Visitors to Belfast spent £334m last year, according to NISRA estimates. They were mostly from Great Britain, followed by continental Europe.

Image caption The popular Game of Thrones fantasy drama has made the Dark Hedges in County Antrim a popular tourist attraction

Hospitality Ulster struck a cautious note in welcoming the figures.

"While the overall numbers are most certainly positive, they also show that there is more need for investment and promotion in regions of Northern Ireland that aren't as well established as tourist destinations in order that the benefits of tourism and hospitality are more evenly spread," said Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster

"Belfast City Council should also revisit its decision not to extend retail opening hours in the city on Sundays."

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