Developing tourism strategy and policy in Northern Ireland.

Tourism Recovery from COVID-19 Pandemic and Development of Tourism Strategy

In response to Covid -19, a Ministerial-led Tourism Recovery Steering Group (which was supported by a Tourism Recovery Working Group) and 10 Task and Finish Groups were established, to lead the planning and preparations for the recovery of the Northern Ireland tourism industry and to prepare for re-growth of the sector.

The Working Group, in conjunction with the Task and Finish Groups, developed a phase one Tourism Recovery Action Plan. The action plan sets out the key initiatives, actions and associated costs that the industry believed must be delivered if the tourism sector is to address the immediate challenges which it faces as a result of the global crisis within the tourism and hospitality industries caused by COVID-19.

The action plan was extensive, having been developed in partnership with many sectors of the tourism industry. The recovery actions initiated by other government departments, and which impact on the tourism sector, were also identified and incorporated into the plan in order to reflect the breadth of action across government.

Phase two of the Tourism Recovery Action Plan was published by Minister Dodds on 28 May 2021. The plan sets out the key challenges facing the NI tourism industry as it recovers from the pandemic and the actions required to support the tourism industry in the most targeted and effective way. Key themes in phase two include creating consumer confidence, generating consumer demand and increasing the competitiveness of the region.

One year on from publication we are now reviewing progress against delivery.

Work on developing a Sustainable Regenerative Tourism Strategy to maximise Northern Ireland’s tourism potential had been delayed as a result of COVID-19 with the focus on recovery. Development of a Strategy remains a key priority going forward. Officials are currently working in partnership with Tourism NI to develop a strategic framework. They are also engaged with key stakeholders to test out initial thinking.

Tourism Strategy

Work on the development of a Regenerative Tourism Strategy, paused due to the global pandemic, has recommenced.

Departmental officials in partnership with Tourism NI, will be engaging over the coming months with key stakeholders on developing a Regenerative Tourism Strategy to promote and develop tourism after what has been, and continues to be, a challenging time for the sector. 

The Tourism Strategy will lead the tourism industry through the next decade ensuring that Northern Ireland stands out in all our key markets and underpinning the Department’s ‘10X’ strategy.   

The new Strategy will have a global focus and cover the period up to 2030, setting out the principles, vision and key aims necessary to drive growth in this important sector.

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 trends in new accommodation styles have continued to be introduced to 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 illness (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 latest Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (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.

The NISRA report points towards steady growth in overall tourism from 2013.

In the year January to December 2019 visitors spent £1.0bn in the local economy with 70 per cent coming from external visitors. This is an increase of 8 per cent in overall visitor spend when compared to 2018.

Expenditure by external visitors increased by 9 per cent to £731m in 2019 when compared to 2018. This makes tourism worth £731m as an export business. The increase in visitor spend has been driven by strong growth in the GB and ROI markets.

Overall visitor numbers increased by 7 per cent to 5.3m compared with January to December 2018. External visitors increased by 7 per cent in 2019 up to 3.0m, largely due to a 28 per cent rise in ROI visitors.

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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