Developing tourism strategy and policy in Northern Ireland.

Tourism performance for the year ended March 2019

The latest NISRA tourism statistics for the year ended March 2019 show that local tourism continues to show positive growth, with increases in overall visitor numbers and spend over the past year. 

NISRA statistics point towards steady growth in overall tourism in Northern Ireland from 2011.

In the year to March 2019 visitors spent £963m in the local economy with 68 per cent generated from external visitors - making tourism worth £660m as an export business. Overall visitor spend increased by +2 per cent when compared with the year to March 2018. External expenditure is estimated to have dipped slightly (-1 per cent) when compared to the previous year, however, NISRA statistics show that expenditure on overnight trips has generally been increasing since 2013, for both external and domestic visitors Key visitor markets are Republic of Ireland, GB, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands and Spain.

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).

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 (ODP) for the NICS was launched. This Plan set out the actions that departments intended 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”. The 2018-19 ODP has been extended into 2019-20. ODP Progress Reports are published on The Executive Offices’ website at:

In the absence of Ministers and a formal Programme for Government, the Outcomes Delivery Plan guides the work of departments 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 is leading the development of a Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Tourism Strategy

Regional workshops were held 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:

  • 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 for Northern Ireland 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 was 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 within the Department for the Economy's 2019-20 Business Plan with a view to bringing forward a public consultation document in 2020.

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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