Developing tourism strategy and policy in Northern Ireland (NI).

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 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:

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

A key recommendation of the 2014 Hunter Review of the NI Tourist Board was to develop a NI Tourism Strategy to drive growth in this important sector. 

DfE had been working for some time with Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland on the development of a new Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland. The intention to publish a draft for consultation in 2017 was impeded by the absence of Ministers and the lack of a functioning Executive and Assembly. Originally it had been planned to develop a Strategy to 2025 but it has now been decided to take the opportunity to extend the period to 2030. This will align the Tourism Strategy with the period of the NI Industrial Strategy – ‘Economy 2030’. 

Work on developing the Draft Strategy has been deferred as a result of COVID-19 and the current focus on recovery. It is anticipated that work will recommence in early/mid 2021.

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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