Commenting on the latest official tourism figures for Northern Ireland, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, said the figures show the importance of keeping the free movement of people after Brexit.
"The latest set of figures show that the tourism and hospitality sector remain a key driver of economic growth in Northern Ireland," said Colin Neill.
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"Overall tourism expenditure rose by 11 percent on an annual basis, which is good news for our hoteliers, restauranteurs and publicans and indeed the economy as a whole, showing that the hospitality sector is working for the NI economy.
"What is very interesting from these figures is the fact that overnight visits from the Republic of Ireland surged 35 percent across the 12 month period and for the first quarter of 2017 rose by 13%. This far outstrips the growth in overnight visitors from any other market.
"It is clear that maintaining the free movement of people across the border is essential to the hospitality and tourism sector and for the general economy.
"Post-Brexit this freedom of movement needs to be maintained for our hospitality sector to continue to grow. The hospitality sector sustains 60,000 jobs across Northern Ireland and contributes more than £1.1 billion to the economy every year.
"It is essential we are supported by politicians and decision makers to make sure our industry is protected and helped grow."