COVID-19 Update: Impact and immediate supports needed for Tourism Industry

Posted 16 Mar, 2020

NITA have been working with members and the government to identify the measures that are required to support tourism businesses who have been dealing with the economic impact since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Along with our members, we have been working with Tourism NI on the development of a central portal of information and guidance specifically for tourism businesses and this can be accessed at

NITA are part of the UK Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group and are taking part in regular calls identifying how tourism is supported through this crisis. Through this we are engaging directly with the UK Tourism Minister who is part of COBR and is feeding through the impact on tourism businesses across the UK.

The UK Chancellor responded to the evidence and calls from business with the announcement of the UK Coronavirus Aid package. In Northern Ireland we have the added complication of what can be done locally by the NI Executive and how we access the aid package that the Chancellor announced in the UK budget statement. NITA are using all their channels to influence the UK response and how these are accessed by the devolved nations.

In addition, clarity is required on Public Health information given our geographic location and local councils taking different approaches.

Based on the latest official figures from 2018, Q2 and Q3 business accounts for almost 60% of the year’s visitor spend which would equate to almost £550m of lost business.

At our meeting with the Economy Minister today we will be calling for immediate action to be taken.

Overview of Asks to Government

Immediate action is required to enable businesses to protect their cash flow and pay staff. The measures announced in the UK Budget will help, but the challenge is in the length of time they will take to set up. These will help other parts of the economy, but Tourism is feeling the impact now and cannot wait weeks for processes to be available.

Business Survival - What is required Now to shore up cash flow:-

  • Immediate announcement on deferment on payment of business rates for Q1 and Q2 – without interest charges
  • Banks to ensure they are prepared to act quickly to provide extended facilities, deferment of loan payments etc.
  • Grant support for SME’s to cover business rents and other costs – extension of Small Business Rates scheme or a redesign of Innovation Voucher scheme – ease of access and process of being approved must be simple and quick.
  • Immediate deferment on VAT payments – a lot of these will be due in May – without interest charges
  • Speeding up of VAT refunds for zero-rated services for example, Coach companies

Business Continuity - What needs to be implemented within next few weeks:

Business Recovery – What we need to do to stimulate demand

  • Support to restore regional connectivity – attract airlines to deliver routes lost through Flybe collapse
  • Abolish Air Passenger Duty for short haul flights in/from Belfast and Derry
  • Increased budget for Tourism NI for an Island of Ireland campaign promoting staycation holidays/breaks
  • Increased budget for Tourism Ireland for overseas marketing, particularly GB in first phase
  • Reduction in VAT for Tourism services – UK highest across the EU and other countries are looking at reducing to 0%