Derry’s growing status as an international destination could see a further 1,000 tourism-related jobs being created by 2025, Visit Derry has said.
Representatives from the city’s tourism body were speaking as they delivered a presentation to the Council’s Business and Culture Committee on Tuesday.
Visit Derry chairman Don Wilmot told the committee that staff at Visit Derry’s tourism information office on Foyle Street had just been named joint first in Tourism NI’s Customer Service Award.
He said tourism for the region was worth £50m, which could grow to £100m by 2025, stating that this was “a clear illustration of the benefits of tourism for the area”.
“There are exciting times ahead for the industry,” he said, adding that at present tourism supported 4,685 jobs, which was expected to grow by 1,000 over the same timeframe.
Visit Derry manager Odhran Dunne said that in 2016, there were 282,000 overnight visits to Derry, 26 percent higher than in 2015 and beating the City of Culture year figures.
“To date in 2017, we are coming in and producing another record year. Hotel occupancy this year is up three percent and room sales are up seven percent on 2016. The upward growth trend is impressive.”
Outside of the Northern Ireland market, he said, other key markets were the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain, with significant growth in visitors from North America over the past year.
He cautioned however that locally, they were competing against other major cities across Ireland and attractions such as the Titanic Quarter and Giant’s Causeway in the north.
Mr Dunne said Derry’s flagship Hallowe’en festival had garnered great international exposure and could be built upon in the future in terms of building visitor numbers over the Autumn/ Winter season.
He said the new hotels planned for Derry would increase capacity by 40% over the next three years, with the Maritime Museum and Quiet Man distillery among the major forthcoming attractions.
Committee chair, Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue welcomed the projected growth in jobs, while her party colleague, Mickey Cooper, who runs a tourism-related business, said: “From my perspective, the tourism sector is one of the key growth areas this Council should be focusing on.”
Colr. Cooper said the challenge was to ensure the influx of visitors coming to Belfast continued westward.
SDLP Colr. Martin Reilly said it was important the district continues to attract in major events such as the 600 delegates coming for the five-day World Conference in Suicide next year, which is expected to generate £1.2m for the economy.
Independent Colr. Paul Gallagher questioned the benefits for Strabane and the rest of the Council area from the promotion and marketing of the city.
Mr Wilmot, however, said: “Our organisation is absolutely committed to attracting visitors to the region and spreading them throughout the region.”