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’. 

Tourism strategy and policy

Tourism Policy and Liaison Branch acts as the Department's lead in developing tourism strategy and policy.

Hunter Review

The Department's Minister commissioned an independent review of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and wider tourism structures (Hunter Review), and work commenced in December 2013. 

The overall aim of the review was to ensure that current organisational structures are the optimum necessary to deliver the targets and actions set out in the Economic Strategy and the Programme for Government and are effectively aligned with the work of Invest NI.

A review report was produced and the Department then sought the views of the public and stakeholders on the proposals suggested by the review.  All of the report’s 33 recommendations were accepted and NITB was renamed Tourism NI and tasked with leading on the implementation of the recommendations.  

The 33 Review recommendations fall into 4 broad themes:

  • Strategic Direction/Future Targets
  • Building Relationships
  • Greater alignment between Tourism NI and Invest NI
  • Tourism NI organisational change

The majority (22) of the recommendations have been implemented. For those recommendations which remain ongoing (10), implementation of these recommendations is well advanced with many of the recommendations being picked up as part of the internal restructuring of Tourism NI and the work to develop a new Tourism Strategy.

One remaining recommendation will be considered over a longer timeframe. This recommendation is that Invest NI should take over the processing of Tourism NI grant payments. Tourism NI and Invest NI are keeping this recommendation under review as both organisations work together to share learning and best practice and Tourism NI takes steps to develop processes consistent with those in place within Invest NI.

Tourism strategy

One of the key recommendations of the Hunter Review was the need to develop a Tourism Strategy. Tourism Liaison Branch in DfE is taking the lead in this working very closely with Tourism NI (TNI), Tourism Ireland and other key stakeholders.

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, are contained in the links below:

Action planning sessions with key interests took place during May 2016. These sessions tested the thinking on the vision and helped develop the actions required to deliver growth. Analysis is continuing to further develop the vision and work up an action plan.

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.

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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