Northern Ireland's tourism industry recovers after Covid despite rising costs, says Economy Minister

Northern Ireland's Economy Minister has said the tourism industry is back where it was after being decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. Gordon Lyons said he was determined to take the industry even further. "2019 was obviously a bumper year for tourism in Northern Ireland," he told UTV.

"It's my ambition we not only get back to that but that go even further and make tourism a £2 billion industry. The cost of living is soaring with inflation at its highest level in 40 years.

On Wednesday it was confirmed it has edged up to 9.1% per cent as the price of what we pay for things continues to jump.

Despite that, Northern Ireland remains a pull for tourists. Flights booked to Northern Ireland from June to September 2022 are at 89% of what they were in 2019. "The staycation is still very much a big big thing," said Peter Bradshaw from Erne Adventures. "While the majority of our business still is staycation we definitely notice an awful lot more international tourists who are coming from all over the world including South America.

  • WATCH: Peter Bradshaw speaks to UTV:

"We've seen a lot is people... but we would notice that people might be restricting themselves to one activity (because of the cost of living) but the demand is there," Peter added. Despite an increase in foreign travel, there has been serious disruption with flights cancelled last minute and more expected through the summer months.

"I do hope that obviously that is cleared up and people can get out for their holidays but also come into Northern Ireland," Gordon Lyons said.

"It does create an opportunity. A lot of people will be looking at the cost of traveling right now and maybe deciding we are going to stay in Northern Ireland," he added.

Business are struggling with rising costs in particular energy bills.

"We fully recognise the pressures that are coming from the cost of living crisis," said Gordon Lyons.

"So much of that is out of our control but I did put in place for our energy strategy last year which moves us in the right direction."

Fermanagh is a hot spot for tourism. It has the only railway museum/barber shop in the world.

"Recently there's been quite an upsurge in visitors," said Alan Devers who runs the Headhunters Barber Shop & Railway Museum.

"After Covid everybody's keen to get out again," Alan added.

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