Derry got 6% tourism spend; Belfast got 35%

Derrys political history is a unique selling point for foreign tourists.
Derrys political history is a unique selling point for foreign tourists.

Derry and Strabane isn’t getting its fair share of tourism business, data contained in a submission by the Department for Economy to the NI Affairs Committee’s tourism inquiry has shown.

Over 8 per cent of the North’s population lives in the Derry City & Strabane District Council area but just 6 per cent (£55,827,929) of the £926,129,203 spent by tourists in NI in 2017 was transacted here, DfE reports.

Belfast, which makes up 18.4 per cent of the population, got 35 per cent (£327,961,261) of the total spend. That’s nearly double its per capita share of the tourist Pound.

Causeway Coast and Glens, our neighbouring council, where 7.7 per cent of people in the North live, enjoyed 21 per cent (£193,572,670) of the total tourism spend. That’s close to three times its share based on population.

The figures show Derry and Strabane came sixth in the league table for tourism trips in 2017. The city and district received 270,408 visitors - 5 per cent of the NI total - less than Belfast, Causeway Coast and Glens, Newry, Mourne and Down, Fermanagh and Omagh and Ards and North Down.

In terms of total tourism overnights Derry and Strabane came in seventh with 822,313 nights - 5 per cent of the NI total - behind Belfast, Causeway Coast and Glens, Newry, Mourne and Down, Ards and North Down, Mid and East Antrim and Fermanagh and Omagh.

The figures were revealed in a detailed overview of the tourism sector and policy in the North submitted to the ongoing NIAC tourism inquiry.

As well as demonstrating that Derry and Strabane is not attracting its per capita share of visitors the briefing document also shows that the number of passengers arriving into City of Derry Airport (CoDA) declined by 34.67 per cent from 286,485 to 185,843 between 2015 and 2018.

DfE believes improved transport links are key to developing the tourism sector.

“Connectivity around NI to and between tourism areas is essential to promoting sub-regional growth by improving access to tourism facilities outside of key gateways such as Belfast. Recent and planned investment in the strategic road network and improved rail services between Derry-Londonderry and Belfast; also Belfast to Dublin will substantially improve access and facilitate the movement of visitors,” it states.

DfE argues better infrastructure will make it easier for locals and tourists to access all three main airports.

“Upgrades to the A6 will improve access to the CoDA for residents living in the counties of Antrim and Londonderry, and should also reduce journey times to both Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport for people living in Co. Londonderry and (to a lesser degree) Co. Tyrone.

“Upgrades to the A5 will improve access primarily to the CoDA for residents living in the counties of Londonderry, Tyrone and (to a lesser degree) Fermanagh, however it would also reduce journey times to Dublin Airport for those living in Co. Londonderry and Co. Tyrone,” the department argues.