The NI Tourism Alliance have written to Executive Ministers urging them to make critical spending decisions at their meeting on the £169m currently at their disposal, in a bid to secure the future of the industry.
Chief Executive of NITA, Joanne Stuart explained, “we cannot underestimate the crisis facing the tourism industry as a result of Covid-19. During the lockdown period of closure £300M in direct visitor spend was lost to the NI economy, a figure is estimated to rise to more than £600m by the end of the year. In addition, 80% of staff are on part and full time furlough, redundancies have already been made across the sector and there has been a significant knock on effect to supply chains.
“Through the Tourism Recovery Working Group, industry has worked with Tourism NI and Department for the Economy to identify the key actions that must be taken to ensure the survival of the industry. These have all been submitted on numerous occasions through departmental processes but to date we still await decisions to be taken. The Executive have £169M to allocate - £53M underspend from Covid-19 schemes and £116M allocated through the Barnett Consequential from the Chancellor’s July statement. This has all been available from July.
“Time is not on our side and it is critical that the NI Executive recognise the crisis our industry is in and quickly move to make the decisions essential to the survival of tourism in Northern Ireland.”
Joanne Stuart was at pains to explain that the money would be well invested in maintaining a vital sector of the economy, a sector that could bounce back quickly if the infrastructure is preserved.
While the industry appreciates the necessary interventions that have been put in place by the NI Executive and the UK Government, we are heading into the Autumn/Winter period and unless the scale of the crisis is recognised and addressed, we are at risk of losing a significant part of the industry during this time. The Minister of the Economy said when announcing the establishment of the Tourism Recovery Steering Group that ‘Northern Ireland’s Tourism sector will have an important role to play in our economic recovery’. Businesses need to survive in the interim to enable them to make it through to 2021 to ensure our economic recovery and prevent the end of their livelihoods and years of work invested into their passion.
“We know that there is pent up demand for the 2021 season, but we need to see action happening now as businesses have not been able to generate enough income since reopening to make it through from October 2020 to March 2021.
“The NI Executive must make funding decisions now to ensure tourism businesses survive the continuing economic shock of Covid19 and adjust to the changed environment in which they are operating.”
The seven major areas for supporting the industry are; campaign to maximise demand for tourism across home, RoI and GB markets; securing regional access with support for air and sea access and coach operators; crisis management support fund and product development programme across the sector; protection of key national tourism assets; international promotional campaigns for 2021 season; reopening date for business conferences and a skills retention and development programme.
Details of all of the proposals are contained in a comprehensive report, 'The Scale of the Crisis Facing Tourism', delivered directly to the Executive on behalf of the Industry.
“We cannot afford to wait any longer to implement these proposals. Tourism has shown that it is a resilient industry that has done everything to keep going through unprecedented times. The additional funding is required to ensure we have a strong base from which to rebuild in 2021 and beyond”