Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Monday, 27 July 2009 10:02 UK

Huge rise in Irish visitors to NI

One of NI's main attractions is the Giant's Causeway
One of NI's main attractions is the Giant's Causeway

The number of visitors to Northern Ireland from the republic has shown a big increase on last year.

Figures show that between January and March there were 52,000 holiday trips from the Republic of Ireland - up by 100% on the same period last year.

People from the republic spent 217,000 nights in NI - a rise of 17% . Visitor numbers rose by 36% this year with 109,000 trips across the border.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said numbers had exceeded expectations.

"This shows that more and more visitors from the Republic are coming to Northern Ireland, not just for shopping, but also for the huge range of things to see and do here," she said.

"The significant rise in revenue from this market is also a welcome boost to the Northern Ireland economy.

One of NI's main attractions is the Giant's Causeway
One of NI's main attractions is the Giant's Causeway

"This is good news for the industry as we continue to offer excellent value for money and unique experiences for our visitors.

"Even though it may be proving a more difficult year economically right across the industry, more and more people are realising that they can have a fantastic holiday closer to home."

Tourism revenue from the republic during the first three months of this year was worth £14.3m, the figures also showed.

Alan Clarke, Chief Executive at the Northern Ireland Tourist Board said the rise in holiday visits from the Republic compared very favourably to figures for the Great Britain market.

He said it showed the board had "made considerable progress with market penetration in the Republic of Ireland".

"NITB continues to deliver targeted marketing campaigns in the republic to maximise the short term opportunities that exist due to the strong euro.

"Our most recent campaign urges residents and visitors to the republic to 'head north' this summer.

"A particular focus for this campaign is to encourage shoppers at key locations to consider extending their stay and making the most of their trip to Northern Ireland."

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