Developing tourism strategy and policy in Northern Ireland.

Tourism Strategy

The department is leading on development of a Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland to 2030 to provide a co-ordinated and focussed approach across the industry, for Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland and for all government departments and public authorities in shaping the future direction of the growth of the sector, growth that will be sustainable, inclusive and innovative.

The vision of the Tourism Strategy is a tourism sector which contributes to the delivery of the department’s 10X Economic Vision of positioning Northern Ireland amongst the most competitive small, advanced economies in the world.

It will provide a framework for tourism to help ensure the region can maximise its contribution to growing the Northern Ireland economy and secure its role as an important export sector and provider of employment.

Tourism legislation

Northern Ireland is unique within the UK as there is a statutory requirement to inspect all accommodation properties offering temporary visitor accommodation to ensure they are compliant with the minimum standard as set out in legislation.

Over the last few years new trends in the type of visitor accommodation available have emerged within the Northern Ireland market. Unfortunately, the legislation has not kept pace with these changes. A review is therefore needed to ensure it is brought up to date to meet the needs of a growing industry.

Initial work was undertaken in the early part of 2020 but was paused due to the global pandemic. It has now recommenced and departmental officials are working with TNI on taking it forward to ensure that Northern Ireland can offer a more diverse range of certified accommodation.

Liaison with tourism agencies and partnership role

Tourism Branch is the departmental partner team for Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland.

Tourism NI

Tourism NI (previously Northern Ireland Tourist Board) has responsibility for the development of tourism product and experience across Northern Ireland and is also responsible for the marketing of Northern Ireland as a tourist destination to visitors within Northern Ireland and from the Republic of Ireland.

Tourism Ireland

Tourism Ireland was set up under the Good Friday Agreement and is responsible for:

  • marketing the island of Ireland as a tourist destination in Great Britain and in 22 overseas markets
  • helping Northern Ireland to achieve its tourism potential
  • Tourism Ireland website

NI Annual Tourism Performance 2019

Due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), face to face surveys across Ireland have been disrupted which has impacted the collection of tourism statistics. The last full year of tourism statistics currently available is 2019 which was published in October 2020.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) reinitiated survey activity in summer 2022 following lifting of Covid restrictions. The NISRA report is planned for 2024.

The latest NISRA tourism statistics for January to December 2019 show that local tourism continued to show positive growth with increases in overall visitor numbers and spend over the year.

In Northern Ireland, our tourism sector has become a huge success story. In 2019, the sector contributed £1 billion to the local economy, including delivering £731 million in export earnings. The sector employed approximately 71,000 people throughout the region, accounting for one in every 12 jobs. Employment was geographically dispersed with 70% of those jobs outside of Belfast offering inclusive opportunities and benefits throughout all regions and to all ages.

The increase in visitor spend has been driven by strong growth in the GB and ROI markets.

Air connectivity

Key to progressing the Tourism Strategy is NI’s air connectivity. Our work is focused on developing air routes with the potential to support inward investment, exports and inbound tourism to grow the NI economy. 

Aviation connectivity research

Related to Tourism

Access to information

How to request information from the Department for the Economy including Freedom of Information (FOI) and the use of our Publication Scheme.

Back to top