Northern Ireland Annual Tourism Statistics published today

Date published: 06 June 2019

The Statistics and Research Agency today published the 2018 Annual Tourism Statistics. These statistics provide an overall assessment of tourism activity in Northern Ireland. Key findings are:

Northern Ireland Annual Tourism Statistics published today
Northern Ireland Annual Tourism Statistics published today
  • In 2018, there were an estimated 5.0 million overnight trips in Northern Ireland. This includes trips by external visitors to Northern Ireland and domestic trips taken by local residents. Estimated expenditure associated with these trips was £968 milliion
  • Overnight trips to Northern Ireland by external visitors was estimated to be 2.8 million. Expenditure associated with these trips was £669 million
  • An estimated 2.2 million hotel room nights were sold in Northern Ireland. Hotel room occupancy was estimated to be 70 per cent in 2018
  • A total of 128 cruise ships docked at Northern Ireland ports in 2018.  This was an increase compared to 112 cruise ships in 2017 and a marked increase from 62 cruise ships in 2013
  • The top three responding attractions (excluding parks and gardens) during 2018 were Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Belfast and Ulster Museum
  • When all sources are considered together, the statistics point towards an upward trend in overall tourism activity in Northern Ireland between 2013 and 2018. The headline measures of trips and spend are the highest estimates on record, but there is no statistically significant change between 2017 and 2018. However, there have been statistically significant increases over the longer term.

Notes to editors: 

Headline tourist activity on overnight trips is measured against the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics (IRTS, 2008) definition. This definition is wider than the traditional perception of tourists, which only relates to those travelling for leisure purposes.

This report relates to all overnight visitors including external visitors from Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland, those living outside the UK and Ireland – as well as domestic tourists within Northern Ireland. The headline tourism statistics are based on samples of households and at ports/airports. Visitor numbers are measured by

  • the Northern Ireland Passenger Survey (Northern Ireland port survey) and the Republic of Ireland Survey of Overseas Travellers (Republic of Ireland port survey)
  • the Household Travel Survey of Republic of Ireland residents
  • the Northern Ireland Continuous Household Survey of Northern Ireland residents

The survey based statistics will have an associated degree of sampling error. A confidence interval is used to inform users of the reliability of the estimates. The headline trip measure has a confidence interval of +/-4 per cent. More detailed information on data sources and methodology can be found on the Tourism Statistics website.    

4. For media enquiries please contact Department for Economy Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

5. General statistical information can be obtained from NISRA on Tel: 028 9025 5163 or email to

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