Developing tourism strategy and policy in Northern Ireland.

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 is 2019 which was published in October 2020.

NI Annual Tourism Performance 2019

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 have increased by 7 per cent in 2019 up to 3.0m, largely due to a 28 per cent rise in ROI visitors.

Tourism and the Programme for Government

The NI Executive is bringing forward an outcomes-based Programme for Government that is focused on achieving outcomes of societal wellbeing and delivering real and positive change in people’s lives.

Between 25 January and 22 March 2021, the Executive held a public consultation on its Programme for Government draft Outcomes Framework. Responses from the consultation are now being considered.

The draft Framework contains nine strategic Outcomes which, when taken together, will set a clear direction of travel for the NI Executive and provide a vision for the future of all citizens.

The priority outcomes are:

  1. Our children and young people have the best start in life
  2. We live and work sustainably – protecting the environment
  3. We have an equal and inclusive society where everyone is valued and treated with respect
  4. We all enjoy long, healthy active lives
  5. Everyone can reach their potential
  6. Our economy is globally competitive, regionally balanced and carbon-neutral
  7. Everyone feels safe – we all respect the law and each other
  8. We have a caring society that supports people throughout their live
  9. People want to live, work and visit here

The role that tourism plays for our economy and for our communities is found across the priority outcomes but is specifically mentioned against Priority 6 and Priority 9.

Prior to the current draft framework, an Outcomes Delivery Plan provided the strategic direction for the priorities and work of the NI Civil Service.

Outcomes Delivery Plan

In June 2018, in the absence of an Executive and a Programme for Government, the NI Civil Service Outcomes Delivery Plan (ODP) became a key strategic document, setting out the actions that departments had put in place to give effect to the objective of improving wellbeing for all by tackling disadvantage and driving economic growth.

The ODP’s starting point was 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. Tourism elements are covered throughout the plan, most particularly within Outcomes 1, 5 and 10.

Read the Outcomes Delivery Plans via the links below:

Supporting data

To measure progress against the outcomes, there were 49 indicators. These helped monitor if the work of government and its partners was moving in the right direction towards improving wellbeing for all.

The indicators can be accessed below:

Tourism Recovery from COVID-19 Pandemic and Development of Sustainable Regenerative 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.

Liaison with tourism agencies and sponsorship role

Tourism Liaison Branch is the departmental sponsor branch 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 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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