THE appeal of hot weather and people 'staycationing' has made Fermanagh a busy tourism spot.

Although Fermanagh has always been popular with both domestic and international tourists, there have been a surge in visitors as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic as visitors are encouraged to 'staycation' at home.

Speaking to this newspaper, Tanya Cathcart, Marketing Manager for Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism, said: “ The staycation market has been brilliant for Fermanagh.”

Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism works on behalf of almost 200 members in the county, working in the tourism sector.

Tanya continued: “This year we are hearing that a lot of properties, especially self-catering, are booked out right until September.

“We had an activity provider contact us to say we had a 300 per cent increase in business and in visitors this year, compared to last year.

"Another provider is observing a lot more tourists and visitors from outside the county.

“We have had places like the Marble Arch Caves contact us to say how busy they are with tours, and how all of their experiences are booking up well in advance.”

Many are turning to the internet to research Fermanagh as a tourism destination, with the Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism’s website seeing double their page views this June 2021 compared to June, 2020, with the number of unique visitors to the site also doubling.

Tanya added: “All the social media traffic is increasing every day. Last month on Facebook, we had just over 1,600 new page likes.”

This increase is in part due to a social media advertising campaign which Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism are using to target key demographics to the area.

“With Covid and post-Covid, people are looking for the great outdoors, they are looking for open space and people want to explore the waterways or want to get out walking.

"People have felt safer doing this and going to more rural destinations. The offerings that we have in Fermanagh, with all of the different facilities here, have made Fermanagh a popular destination.”

Many tourists are coming from the Republic. Tanya added: “it is one of our closest home markets, and there was a lot of people who visited Fermanagh for the first time last year; we are seeing a lot of new visitors and a lot of repeat visitors as well.”

One telling fact on the increase of visitors to the county is that the Fermanagh Tourism Visitors centre seen the number of enquiries increase fourfold from July 4-11, compared to the same period last year.

Accommodation bookings have been busy, but Tanya reassures anyone planning to visit Fermangh for the remainder of the summer that “you will get availability somewhere”.

Cathal and Brenda O’Dolan of Rushin House, Belcoo also attest to accommodation sites being busy.

Speaking to this newspaper, Cathal said: “We have never been busier than when we opened. It is incredibly busy.

“It’s good, as we were closed for St. Patrick’s weekend and the Easter holidays, which is normally our busiest week of the year. The amount of local people we have visiting is phenomenal.”

Cathal confirmed that there has been an increase in hyper-local tourists to the caravan park, such as visitors from Florencecourt, Enniskillen and Lisbellaw. He added: “The thing is, when you’re away, you’re away!”

Cathal and Brenda believe that many visitors from outside Fermanagh are looking at the latest Covid-19 statistics to determine where to stay, and are seeing lower numbers in Fermanagh than in Donegal or the north coast, for example.

“It is very busy, because people who usually take their campervans to France, Italy and Spain aren’t going this year, they are at home and they are still looking for somewhere to stay.

"The other thing we have is that the cancelled bookings we would have had from Halloween or Easter, who didn’t take a refund, moved their bookings to now.”

Many people have also turned to AirBnB to find the latest last-minute self-catering stays in Fermanagh.

The Impartial Reporter checked the app on Monday afternoon for availability for holiday lets for August 20-22, for a two-night weekend stay for two adults and two children.

The results showed three listings in Fermanagh available for that weekend, with one stay in Garrison priced at £82 per night, while one of the stays in Enniskillen was priced at £155 per night.

Other results on the ‘Enniskillen’ section of the app show locations in Fivemiletown, Ballinamore, and Gortin.