Tourism influx to ‘friendly’ Derry

City tour guide, Garvin Kerr, with a group of visitors from Florida at the Cenotaph in the Diamond. DERR3415GS187
City tour guide, Garvin Kerr, with a group of visitors from Florida at the Cenotaph in the Diamond. DERR3415GS187

Derry’s visitor numbers have shot up this year, with hotel occupancy rates not far off the highs achieved during the City of Culture year, the ‘Journal ‘has learned.

Meanwhile around 20,000 visitors have arrived in the city via tourist coaches alone over the past two months with a further 6,000 arriving locally on cruise ships since January.

In terms of visitor experience, feedback has confirmed that Derry greatest tourism asset is its people.

Odhran Dunne, manager of Visit Derry, told the ‘Journal’: “It’s always about the people and how friendly and welcoming they are. That’s the over-riding thing that makes a difference.”

Overall, tourist visitor numbers for the year to date for 2015 are up by 6% on the same period for 2014, despite unfavourable exchange rates for people from Ireland and the rest of the eurozone.

The number of occupied bed nights at hotels across the city is currently standing at 65% for this year, just shy of the 68% achieved during the City of Culture year, and well up on last year’s 61%.

In July 2015 alone, occupancy rates have soared to 79%, with 10,000 people coming through the doors of the Derry Visitor Centre over the course of the month.

Two new hotels are expected to open within Derry’s Walled city this year- at a former bank building on Shipquay Street and at the former Northern Counties building near the courthouse on Bishop Street.

Mr Dunne said that the overall picture was an encouraging one. “In terms of occupancy rates, it is going really well. Every month to date has performed better than last year. Our aim is to match the levels during the City of Culture year and this is really encouraging. Basically within the next year or two we hope to reach that target.

“At our visitor centre this year to date we are up 7% and hotel room bookings are up 6%. We have had a big increase in coach operators.

“It is all really positive for this year and we are also building for next year and beyond.”

A breakdown of where people are coming from shows that an increasing number of visitors are hailing from America, Europe, and particularly Great Britain.

“The Irish market has been a bit more challenging, particularly the Republic, but in terms of the Eurozone it is holding its own,” Mr Dunne said. “From Europe it is mostly visitors from Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Whilst the exchange rates are challenging, it has not put people off coming.

“We offer visitors somethingunique in terms of an experience, and when you mix that in with history and culture, people have been very positive and impressed.with what’s on offer.”