Derry is on course to surpass all previous records for visitor numbers in 2017, with 80,000 hotel rooms sold over the first six months of this year.
The city’s tourism boom in the first half of the year is already out-performing all previous records.
Mr. Odhran Dunne, manager at ‘Visit Derry’ said the friendliness of local people and Derry being increasingly recognised as an ideal base for exploring the north west region; the north coast and the Wild Atlantic Way routes, was helping to attract tourists in their droves.
Mr. Dunne also welcomed the arrival of more tourism facilities, including the opening of the new Shipquay Boutique Hotel and the construction work now under way for a new 116-bed Holiday Inn Express on the site of the former Strand Bar Complex.
Speaking to the Journal, he said: “The latest tourism data released by NISRA indicates that 2016 was a record year for tourism with 283,000 overnight visitors spending over £50m in the local economy.
“However indications from the first six months of this year are that the industry is on track to outperform 2016, which is great news for the local tourism industry.
“The average hotel occupancy figure for the first six months of the year has grown from 61 per cent to 67 per cent, compared to last year and has surpassed the previous peak of 64 per cent in 2013.
“We have also seen hotel room sales increase by 11 per cent to over 80,000 for the same period up from the previous peak of 72,000 in 2016.”
“The growing interest from the travel trade, tour operators, and evolving festivals and events programme plus the increased competitiveness of the destination with the devaluation of sterling, have all impacted on these recent positive results.”
Mr. Dunne said that in order to build on this momentum, it was important to increase investment in destination marketing; product developments and visitor experiences, “as this will attract an increased market share of international visitors to the North West.”
He added: “The continued success of the tourism industry is based on collaborative working and Visit Derry is committed to working in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council and the private sector to realise the true tourism potential of the destination, as it offers one of the key opportunities for growth within our local economy.”
Mr. Dunne said that the weakened pound and stronger euro has seen a rise in the number of people visiting the city from the south. “It is a more attractive destination now for people who maybe have never thought of coming north and realising the value it offers, and also the good value to be had here in restaurants, bars, nightlife as well as for accommodation,” Mr Dunne added.
Derry is also seeing increasing numbers from Great Britain, as well as attracting strong visitor numbers from across Europe and USA.
“The ‘staycation’ trend is continuing and people are now more likely to stay within a sterling zone,” Mr Dunne said. “We are really trying to centralise Derry as a great base from which to explore the wider region, the Wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coastal Route.”
Mr. Dunne said that the Irish Open being brought to Portstewart this year and Ballyliffin next year, and the Open itself coming to Portrush, means Derry is fast gaining a reputation as a great base for golf. It is also a “great base for screen,” he added, with ‘Game of Thrones’ tours now departing from Derry showcasing the nearby locations featured in the TV series. This will be bolstered later this year when Malin Head is featured in the new Star Wars film. ‘The Last Jedi.’
“Golf and screen are two sectors we can benefit from. We will probably see the benefits of that over the next year or two as the tour operators’ lead in times are usually much longer. The biggest selling point is obviously the people. You get that sense of place and welcome and with every tourist we speak to one of their highlights is the people.”