The chief executive of Northern Ireland's tourism promotion agency says significant growth in cross-border visitors is helping the sector during what is its most challenging period for many years.

Hotels, caravan parks and restaurants have all reported an increase in cross-border business and it amounted to 60% of ticket sales at the Titanic Visitor Centre in Belfast since it reopened last month.

Traditionally most of the island of Ireland tourism traffic is from north to south. 

The Troubles and the marching season influenced that trend. 

Research commissioned by Northern Ireland's tourism sector in 2018 showed 50% of those questioned south of the border had never ventured north.

However, Tourism Northern Ireland's chief executive John McGrillen says against the backdrop of Covid-19, Northern Ireland is benefiting from the staycation factor and it has experienced significant growth in cross-border visitors. 

He says hotels, restaurants, caravan parks, holiday homes and visitor centres are confirming the trend - one Derry hotelier reported five-fold growth in his cross-border customers. 

Cross-border business provided 60% bookings at the Titanic Centre Belfast since it reopened last month. 

Subsidised dining in restaurants and cafés helped during August but that scheme is over.

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The VAT rate, down to 5%, is still in place. 

Mr McGrillen says in the present circumstances cross-border business is the market with most potential.