The Northern Ireland hospitality sector is being left further behind by its counterpart in the Irish Republic by the continuing vacuum in government the head of trade body Hospitality Ulster Colin Neill has claimed.
Commenting on the Irish government’s decision to allow craft breweries to sell their products to their visitors, Mr Neill said the move was the latest devlopment that leftbusinesses across the province at a disadvantage and threatened to damage tourism.
“This latest decision by the Irish government to allow craft breweries to sell their products to visitors is further evidence, if it were needed, of how the laws governing our hospitality sector need updated and modernised as a matter of urgency,” he said.
“It comes just days after the government in Dublin moved closer to removing all restrictions on the sale of alcohol over the Easter period, in stark to contrast to our own publicans, hoteliers and restauranteurs who are still contending with restrictions over the whole period.”
The craft move means that brewers will have the advantage of being able to market and sell their beer to visitors.
That, said Mr Neill, potentially handed them a competitive advantage over local craft brewers.
“Furthermore it adds to the south’s tourist offering, in fact that was a major reason for the change according to the Irish government.
“In the craft beer and spirits market consumer engagement is key and only last year we had the bizarre spectacle of the BBC’s Good Food show coming to Northern Ireland but under the law our brewers couldn’t sell anything at the show,” he added.
“While the south moves to modernise its licensing laws, we stay still, putting us at a major disadvantage.”
The hospitality sector employs sustains more than 60,000 jobs in Northern Ireland and contributes more than £1.1 billion to the local economy annually.
In turn, Mr Neill said the sector was a “key plank” of tourism in the province, generating revenues of £1.6 billion for the conomy.
“The archaic laws which govern our hospitality sector must be changed as a matter of urgency either through a restored Assembly, or in its absence via direct rule from Westminster,” he said.