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Dr Joanne Stuart Looks Towards Timeline for the Tourism Industry

Posted 03 Jun, 2020

"The Northern Ireland Executive has confirmed, as part of the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, hotels and tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland will be allowed to reopen on 20th July. NITA embraces this date but argues a coordinated and consistent approach is needed across the tourism industry.

Tourist accommodation allowed to re-open from 20th July include hotels, holiday parks, caravan sites, self-catering properties, guesthouses and accommodation, bed and breakfast accommodation and hostels. Although NITA hopes that self-catering property and caravan parks may be able to open earlier due to the self-contained element of these properties, it has been noted that it is not yet clear whether bars, restaurants and other facilities in hotels will be allowed to open to residents from 20th July. However, NITA is pressing for the Executive to give further guidance and dates for the reopening of the rest of the visitor economy to not only ensure a co-ordinated and consistent approach but ease pressure on public facilities.

Recently, there have been a number of instances where large numbers of people have congregated at beaches and other beauty spots putting considerable pressure on public facilities and the need to maintain social distancing, while also raising concerns in local communities. As restrictions are relaxed, and with many tourism attractions and facilities not being open, the public have a restricted number of places that they can go and this is putting pressure on these locations.”

We need to look to ways to help redistribute visitor numbers and ease pressure on public facilities such as the reopening of low risk accommodation types (self-catering, caravan parks) and attractions where social distancing and hygiene can be maintained. With non-essential retail opening in the next couple of weeks, there should be consideration given to tourism activities and attractions that can open. This not only helps to manage the volumes of people is a safe and co-ordinated way but will provide much needed income for our tourism businesses and protect jobs across Northern Ireland.

As one of NITA’s key asks to government, it has been lobbying for a Tourism Recovery Support Package. Recognising domestic tourism is expected to be the first market to recover, with international travel not due to recover until 2021, it has been calling for consumer insight and sentiment research, of both communities in our beauty hot spots and domestic visitors and inform marketing campaigns to reassure and encourage home staycations. The above will also support businesses, who will need help developing new business models and refining their product to meet consumer needs. NITA has been working at a local and national level in developing guidelines for reopening and will push for further clarity on dates and support."