Following the briefing by the First Minister and the Finance Minister, tourism businesses have been left in limbo about how they will get through the next four weeks.
This is a critical time for our tourism businesses - attractions, tour operators, tour guides, non-hotel accommodation, transport. With the quarantine for travellers to NI, the recent introduction of restrictions across the Republic of Ireland and parts of the UK, we had already seen visitor attractions experience mass cancellations and bookings fall dramatically. This has been further exacerbated by the recent speculation around tighter restrictions being introduced across Northern Ireland.
Last night’s announcement by the First Minister and Finance Minister that Hotels are to close and the public being instructed not to undertake “unnecessary travel” has seen tourism businesses worst fears realised.
With bookings already at a fraction of what they would normally be at this time of year, a survey conducted yesterday revealed that 89% of tourism businesses believe they may not survive the next four weeks, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
Joanne Stuart, CEO of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, the representative body for businesses in the tourism sector, called for clarity as to what the Executive means by “unnecessary travel”. She is also seeking immediate support for tourism businesses affected by the latest restrictions.
Ms Stuart said “for these businesses to remain open and have any chance of surviving the next four weeks it is imperative that the Executive makes it explicitly clear that the public are allowed to travel to and enjoy the wide range of visitor attractions and experiences here over the next four weeks. If this is clarity is not provided, financial support will be needed to ensure our tourism industry survives this very difficult period and gives them a fighting chance of making it to Christmas and into the New Year”