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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 August 2005, 06:21 GMT 07:21 UK
NI tourism continues upward trend
Passengers on a tour of Belfast
Many tour buses have been packed in Belfast this summer
Belfast is welcoming so many visitors this summer that the company which runs open-top bus tours of the city has had to order another bus.

City Sightseeing tours has added a seventh bus to its growing fleet in the city, and has bought another one for Londonderry as well.

Tourist numbers in Northern Ireland have doubled in the past 10 years, building up to last year's record figures of 2.1m visitors.

Alan Clarke of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board says peace and stability have been key factors, as have improved access and a growing number of cheap flights into the province.

"Obviously reassurance and people's wish to have a safe holiday are exceptionally important, as are air access and the ability to get away for a short break," he says.

Tourists on Derry walls
Derry city walls have also proved popular among visitors
Several tourists were asked about the effect of recent news on their attitudes to visiting Northern Ireland, such as the IRA statement renouncing violence or the ongoing loyalist feud.

One Australian man said these factors "didn't even enter my head" before he decided to visit Belfast.

"We just wanted to come somewhere different and have a good time," he added.

In Derry, the city walls are also proving to be a popular attraction.

City ranger Hugh Kennedy said visitors were well aware of "what this place used to be like and they are coming now for a new experience".

"It's probably one of the safest places to come to in Europe, which is a complete turnaround," he says.

"The walls were closed off to the public for the best part of 25 years."

It is believed that although visitor numbers are slightly down on last year's figures, tourists are spending more money during their stays.

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