Derry now a 'destination' city, says hotelier as cross-border tourism trebles in ten years

A general view of Derry city
-Credit: (Image: Justin Kernoghan/Belfast Live)


There has been a "massive" increase in the number of tourists from the south who are now visiting Derry as a "destination" city, a local hotelier has said.

This comes as a joint study by Ulster University and Dublin City University found cross-border tourism has trebled in the past 10 years, with more than 1.3 million visits made to Northern Ireland in 2023 - compared with 400,000 in 2013.

Derry hotelier Brendan Duddy, speaking to Belfast Live, said the number of visitors from the Republic of Ireland has been increasing "year on year".

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The authors of the Ulster University study said that “notwithstanding some public commentary that many people from the Republic of Ireland never travel to NI”, the number of trips from south of the border to Northern Ireland has “increased dramatically” over the past decade.

“In 2013, on average less than 100,000 cross-border trips were made per quarter, a figure that has grown to over 300,000 in 2023. In the years following the pandemic, over 200,000 trips per quarter have been recorded,” it said.

Brendan Duddy, who runs several hotels in Derry and the North Coast, said the increase in visitors has been more pronounced in the years since the coronavirus pandemic, when restrictions on travel abroad meant more people opted for holidays at home.

"There has massive increase over the last three or four years, just increasing year-on-year with people coming, you know, from all parts of Ireland up here," he said.

"You know, they know they're welcome, they know the pricing is good, they know the food's good. There's a lot that's 100%."

He continued: "I can tell you that, for the first time in my life, I've seen people from Cork, from Waterford, from Dublin obviously, and from away down south - it's very surprising.

I never, in 25 years, came across so many people from so far down south.

"You always would have got people from Donegal, from not far away, but we're now seeing people from much farther away in Ireland."

Mr Duddy added: "I think it's a combination of the rules on travelling, during COVID, and the new road which means you can travel to Derry from Belfast now more easily. When people were locked down during COVID, they discovered that they could stay here and, through word-of-mouth, I think it has grown.

Derry is turning into a destination because, I think, it's a nice location and you can drop in to Donegal, you can go to Buncrana, you can go to Moville, all those places. There's a lot of small tourist attractions and stuff like that.

"There's no question to me that it's a destination in itself now and, on that point of view, we're extending our hotels."

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