Developing tourism strategy and policy in Northern Ireland.

Tourism Performance 2017

The latest NISRA tourism statistics for January to December 2017 show that local tourism continues to show positive growth, with increases in visitor numbers and spend across all key markets over the past year. 

The NISRA report points towards steady growth in overall tourism in Northern Ireland from 2011.

In the year January to December 2017 visitors spent £926m in the local economy with 71 per cent coming from external visitors - making tourism worth £657m as an export business. This is an increase of nine per cent in overall visitor spend and a seven per cent increase in external visitor spend when compared with January to December 2016. The increase in visitor spend has been driven by strong growth in the Republic of Ireland, domestic and overseas markets.

Overall visitor numbers increased by six per cent to 4.9m compared with January to December 2016. External visitor numbers have increased by three per cent in 2017, up to 2.7m.

Tourism and the Programme for Government 2016-2021

A draft Programme for Government Consultation document was published on 28 October 2016. This eight week period of consultation, which closed on 23 December 2016, followed an earlier public consultation on the framework and approach to the Programme for Government (PfG), which closed on 22 July 2016.

Under what is an outcomes-based approach for the PfG, one of the set indicators is ‘to improve Northern Ireland’s attractiveness as a destination’. This falls under Outcome No.10 (We have created a place where people want to live and work, to visit and invest.) The proposed measure for this indicator will be to monitor progress on ‘Total spend by external visitors’. 

Outcomes Delivery Plan

On 4 June 2018, an Outcomes Delivery Plan for the NICS was launched. This Plan sets out the actions that departments intend to take during 2018-19 to give effect to the previous Executive’s objective of “Improving wellbeing for all – by tackling disadvantage and driving economic growth”.

In the absence of Ministers and a formal Programme for Government, the Outcomes Delivery Plan will guide the work of departments during 2018/19 by providing meaningful strategic direction to our business and financial plans. The Plan’s starting point is the framework of 12 outcomes of societal wellbeing developed by the former Executive, and its actions are designed to deliver real impact and change in each of these areas.

They have been identified through engagement with partners and stakeholders as the things which will make the greatest difference to people’s lives and wellbeing. Tourism elements are covered throughout the Plan, most particularly within Outcome 1, Outcome 5 and Outcome 10.   

Tourism strategy and policy

Tourism Policy and Liaison Branch acts as the Department's lead in developing tourism strategy and policy. Working very closely with Tourism Northern Ireland (TNI), Tourism Ireland and other key stakeholders, the Department has been leading the development of a Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Tourism strategy

Regional workshops were held in 2016 to give stakeholders the opportunity to express views on the development of the new Tourism Strategy. These workshops were attended by close to 300 people and were well received. The key messages from the regional workshops are that the Strategy is an opportunity to:

Six regional workshops were held during the first six months of 2016 to give stakeholders the opportunities to express views on the development of the new Tourism Strategy. These workshops were attended by close to 300 people and were well received. The key messages from the regional workshops are that the Strategy is an opportunity to:

  • change mindsets and recognise the economic importance of tourism
  • set the direction for the tourism industry and government
  • develop tourism into an internationally competitive sector

The key messages from the stakeholder engagement and a presentation from one of the regional workshops:

There is a new appreciation of the potential for tourism to contribute to the growth of the Northern Ireland economy and to deliver on jobs and investment. The new Strategy will set the future direction for tourism within the context of a refocused Industrial Strategy for Northern Ireland. A public consultation on the Industrial Strategy entitled "Economy 2030" was launched by the Department on 24 January 2017.

The absence of Ministers has delayed public consultation on, and therefore finalisation of, the draft Strategy within the original timescale. Consideration is now being given to extending the draft Tourism Strategy period to 2030 - this would align the Tourism Strategy to the Draft Industrial Strategy – ‘Economy 2030’ timeframe. A revised draft of the Strategy looking towards 2030 is being developed and is included as an ‘Action’ within the Outcomes Delivery Plan published on 4 June 2018.

Liaison with tourism agencies and sponsorship role

Tourism Liaison Branch is the Departmental Sponsor Branch for Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland.

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

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

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.

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