NITA Presents Key Asks for Tourism Recovery to Economy Commintee

Posted 24 Apr, 2020

Since the start of this crisis, the NITA has been working to ensure tourism voice is heard and the industry is given the support it has needed. Having been at the forefront of the catastrophic economic impact of Covid-19 with income dropping to zero within a matter of weeks, and unlike other sectors of the economy, working from home or finding alternatives to generating income is not an option for tourism, our focus has been on financial support.

Last week, our lobbying efforts made progress with expedited payments of £25K grants and the announcement of a Tourism Taskforce This week, we expect details of the £40m hardship fund, which will aim to support those who have ‘fallen through the gaps’ of other funding, to be announced and we hope to hear more from the Minister in regards to a targeted rates holiday for tourism.

We are now starting to look towards recovery. As the first to be hit, Tourism could also take the longest time to fully recover and therefore we need to plan for this, we need to have a resourced plan ready to be executed to regain our market share and build our businesses back up again once restrictions start to be lifted. To do ensure this, we have four key areas of focus which we presented to the Economy Committee. These included:

Tourism Taskforce Agenda
We welcome the announcement of the Tourism Taskforce after our concentrated lobbying efforts as collaboration between government and industry is vital to the recovery process.

We are now working to ensure that this is set up quickly and the agenda reflects the challenges of operating tourism businesses. Key issues we would like included in the agenda are:

  • Impacts for a phased relaxation of restrictions and how businesses operate with social distancing
  • Health & Safety guidelines – social distancing, hygiene
  • Clarity on timeline – businesses will require at least 3-4 weeks to get ready to open
  • Staffing levels
  • Sentiment of consumers on travel
  • Group travel restrictions – tour operators
  • Public transport
  • Guidance for mass gatherings and organised gatherings - for business tourism, weddings, entertainment
  • Financial viability of businesses operating within restrictions

Tourism Recovery Support Package

Domestic tourism is expected to be the first market to recover, with international travel not due to recover until 2021, therefore, a Recovery Support Package is needed, including:-

  • Insights research, including consumer sentiment and barriers to travel
  • Tapering of the job retention scheme – extended for Tourism to enable staff to be brought back on a phased approach
  • Extension for business rates holiday to twelve months for Tourism businesses
  • Support for Tourism businesses to develop new business models, refining product to meet consumer needs
  • Incentive promotions to encourage and give confidence to our local market to engage with our tourism offering
  • Marketing and Promotion of NI as destination

Regional Connectivity

With decreased capacity of regional connectivity – this is critical for us to build consumer confidence and our reputation as a destination that is easy to get to for both leisure and business tourism. Aviation has been one of the hardest hit industries and given our geographic location we will be severely disadvantaged. We are calling for:

  • Abolishment of APD on short haul flights
  • Fund for air route development
  • High speed rail links with Dublin

Reduction in VAT

In addition, to provide a boost to tourism and address competiveness, particularly from the Republic of Ireland, we are calling for a reduction in VAT.

As the voice for tourism in Northern Ireland, we will be lobbying for the above and will be raising these asks with the Ministers of Finance and Economy, as well as nationally through our UK Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group and the Tourism Industry Council, on which NITA sits. If there are other key areas you wish to address, please do not hesitate to get in touch.