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 of restrictions, reports Shauna McCrudden
The latest Covid-19 restrictions have affected every industry, but none more so than the travel sector. With the quarantine for travellers to Northern Ireland, the recent introduction of restrictions across the Republic of Ireland and parts of the UK, visitor attractions across NI have seen mass cancellations and bookings fall dramatically. This has been further exacerbated by the recent speculation around tighter restrictions being introduced across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Last week, the First Minister and Finance Minister announced that hotels were to close and the public was instructed not to undertake “unnecessary travel”. This 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 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.
“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 is allowed to travel to and enjoy the wide range of visitor attractions and experiences here. If this clarity is not provided, financial support will be needed to ensure our tourism industry survives this very difficult period to give them a fighting chance of making it to Christmas and into the New Year.”
Judith Owens, Titanic Belfast Chief Executive says, “Whilst Titanic Belfast is confident it can offer safe and memorable experiences, if we are to remain open, the Government needs to reassure people that it is ok to travel to tourist attractions. Currently, the ‘no unnecessary travel’ restrictions suggest otherwise. If we are to remain open, we also are going to require financial support to get through the next four weeks because of the drop in demand and heightened travel restrictions in Northern Ireland, Ireland and UK.”
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