Commenting on the Chancellor’s budget today 3rd March, NITA CEO Joanne Stuart said,
‘The Chancellor has laid out additional support that is much needed by tourism businesses to survive the next few months until they are able to reopen. The extension to the Furlough and Self Employed schemes and the extension of the VAT relief are all to be welcomed, however, the introduction of additional employer costs on the furlough scheme from July and the increase of VAT from September adds more stress for businesses who need to be able to reopen and start trading as a matter of urgency.
With the divergence in approach to easing of restrictions, tourism businesses could be facing a longer period of closure than our counterparts in GB and therefore we need the NI Executive to ensure that schemes announced for England such as the restart grants and extension of business rates relief are extended to our businesses.
It is hugely disappointing that the Chancellor has not acted on calls for APD to be abolished on domestic flights and continues to ignore the real competitive disadvantage that Northern Ireland suffers as a result of double charging on regional flights. GB remains our largest market for tourism and with the success of the UK Vaccination programme, this market will be critical to the recovery of tourism this year. Tourism businesses have experienced lost business of over £800m in the last 12 months, reserves are non-existent and businesses have taken on significant debt to survive. We are reliant on our home markets, as there is currently no plan on how to open up international travel, and the continuation of this unfair and arbitrary tax will have disproportionate negative impact for NI businesses.
The Economic Recovery Action Plan put forward by Minister Dodds must be approved by the NI Executive to ensure that tourism businesses are given every chance to survive. Losing Easter has seen another 15% of annual income lost and the importance of investment in connectivity, marketing and promotion of NI as a destination cannot be underestimated.