With the news that Flybe is on the verge of collapsing, the Northern Ireland Tourism industry has been plunged into crisis as regional connectivity to the rest of Great Britain will be dramatically reduced, further compounding the recent downturn in Tourism bookings as a result of Coronavirus.
Commenting on the news, Joanne Stuart Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance says "Firstly our sympathy goes out to all the Flybe staff and to their passengers who have been affected, but immediate action to support airlines flying into Belfast is critical.
“If we don’t have urgent government support for regional air transport, the consequences for the entire Northern Ireland economy, not just Tourism, will be incalculable.
“The top 13 destinations in terms of direct air passenger flow in the calendar year 2018 from Northern Ireland Airports were to Great Britain and these routes accounted for 56% of all air passenger flow to and from Northern Ireland in 2018.
“We met with the Department for the Economy today on the Coronavirus issue and we are due to meet the Minister for the Economy tomorrow (Thursday). We have already called an urgent Summit for our members next Tuesday but the Flybe news makes Government engagement even more critical.
“For example one issue is Air Passenger Duty (APD) which is a reserved matter for Westminster. This is a blunt tax that does not take into consideration the lack of alterative travel options which disadvantages Northern Ireland compared to other UK locations. Our tourism sector is heavily reliant on domestic visitors from elsewhere in the UK, a source of visitors who are effectively ‘double-taxed’ by short-haul APD.
“We appreciate that we are facing serious challenges but tourism, a £1bn contributor to the economy employing over 65,000 people has a strong and resilient private sector and is determined to meet these head on. However, we cannot do it alone and will have a full list of measures required to support the industry.”