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Study reveals cross-border tourism in Ireland is stronger than ever

Simon Calder’s Travel

Cross-border tourism between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has tripled in a decade, a report has found.

The joint study by Ulster University and Dublin City University found there were differences in the economic impact in Ireland compared with Northern Ireland.

There were more than 1.3 million cross-border visits made to Northern Ireland in 2023, compared with almost 400,000 in 2013.

International visits in the period 2013-2019 grew by 33% in Northern Ireland and 46% south of the border.

The authors said that “notwithstanding some public commentary that many people from the Republic of Ireland never travel to NI”, the number of trips from south of the border to Northern Ireland has “increased dramatically” over the past decade.

“In 2013, on average less than 100,000 cross-border trips were made per quarter, a figure that has grown to over 300,000 in 2023. In the years following the pandemic, over 200,000 trips per quarter have been recorded,” it said.

The study found that all visitors to Northern Ireland are more likely to be visiting friends or relatives than on holiday or a business trip, and of that number almost half will stay with them – considerably reducing the earned income from accommodation.

Visitors from Great Britain are crucial to both parts of the island, the study found, but the scale is different, making up two thirds of visitors to Northern Ireland compared with one third in Ireland.

The report found people stay in Northern Ireland for fewer nights, particularly long-haul visitors.

It also found a “buoyant and resilient” tourism industry across both Northern Ireland and Ireland, with “strong evidence” of a bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

It said Ireland had approximately 4.3 times as many trips by international visitors compared with Northern Ireland in 2019, but 7.6 times as much expenditure.

The scale of domestic tourism trips within Northern Ireland, at roughly two million per annum, remained static in the decade from 2011.

South of the border, the scale of within-state tourism increased from 6.5 million to 11 million trips in the same period, probably reflecting the stronger economic performance.

Belfast city centre
Belfast city centre (PA Archive)

Ana Desmond, senior economist at the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre, said the tourism sector across the island of Ireland “has demonstrated…

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