Derry’s hotels and b’n’bs are almost totally booked up for the Halloween festivities, weeks before the main event.
Occupancy rates for the Halloween weekend were described as “brilliant” for this year, and stood at 96% as of last Friday.
The hike in visitors was relayed to Derry City Council’s Development Committee at their October meeting on Tuesday.
Thousands of tourists are now booked to join tens of thousands of local people at the annual parade and other festivities, which will this year go under the theme of ‘City of Bones’, a play on Derry’s coat of arms.
Sinn Fein Councillor Elisha McCallion led the tributes to the council officers who have been to the fore in organising this year’s programme of events.
“The department have certainly outdone themselves this year,” she said, adding:
“There is a ream of activities there for families, young people and everyone, a vast amount of activity around them few days and I would encourage the public to take advantage of what’s happening.”
Mayor of Derry, SDLP Councillor Brenda Stevenson, said that the festival was “building year on year” and was now “one of the biggest Halloween festivals in Europe”.
Derry’s first official Halloween celebrations took place in 1982, and were organised because of the annual Celtic and Christian festival’s enduring popularity among Derry people.
“The very fact Halloween falls on a Friday this year gives it an added attraction,” Colr. Stevenson said, adding: “Officers and all those involved in marketing should give themselves a huge pat on the back.”
DUP Councillor Gary Middleton meanwhile said the events Derry City Council has put together formed what was “really a fantastic programme”.
“It’s turned into a real family occasion,” he said.
SDLP Councillor John Boyle said he didn’t immediately make the connection with the city’s coat of arms and the ‘City of Bones’ title, and said that this was something that the council may be able to explore further, providing the coat of arms do not change when the new council comes into force next year.