Shopping sprees by tourists are potentially worth €800m to the struggling retail sector both north and south of the border.
This was one of the main findings of the first ever report on building retail in Ireland on both sides of the border.
The report, by Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) and the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA), found the average international visitor to Dublin spends €606 in the city during their stay. This ranges from €224 for visitors on a day trip, up to €3,020 for those staying more than two weeks.
The average visitor to Belfast spends €358 during their stay, ranging from €123 for those in the city for the day to €3,874 for those staying for more than a fortnight.
Overall, most visitors to both Dublin (71%) and Belfast (55%) stay for more than one night but less than a week — indicating a preference for short breaks in Ireland rather than longer holidays.
The study found visitors from Australasia were the most likely to stay for an extended period, with around a third staying for more than two weeks. The next longest staying visitors are North Americans (10% in Dublin and 13% in Belfast).
When asked about travel between the north and south, 16% of visitors to Dublin said they had also visited Belfast, while a third of those visiting Belfast also made a trip to Dublin.
REI deputy chief executive Seán Murphy said the report highlighted the importance of promoting Ireland as a shopping destination.
“Doing this will grow visitor spend on retail all over the island. We know the island is competitively priced when it comes to luxury goods prices ex VAT. Using this research will enable us all to further enhance the island of Ireland’s attractiveness as a visitor retail destination,” he said.
NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said both retail organisations would work to promote the island’s largest industry in terms of employment numbers.
“From a Northern Ireland perspective, more can be done to attract Republic of Ireland-only tourists here. A vibrant retail sector with thriving town centres can play a key role in doing this. Crucial also will be further promoting the new British-Irish tourism visa to attract visitors from outside the EU to the island,” he said.
The report’s key recommendations include the establishment of a North-South Retail Forum to bring together key retail business groups and relevant ministers to ensure effective communication and policy changes to promote retail as a core part of the tourism strategy of both Tourism NI and Fáilte Ireland.
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