REACTION: Reopening of NI tourism and hospitality sector welcomed

Economy Minister Diane Dodds has welcomed indicative dates agreed for the re-opening of key sectors of the tourism and hospitality industry in Northern Ireland.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th June 2020 -  

Eamon McCusker, owner of the Chubby Cherub cafe in Belfast city centre prepares for opening in anticipation of being allowed to re-open for business in the next few weeks
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th June 2020 - Eamon McCusker, owner of the Chubby Cherub cafe in Belfast city centre prepares for opening in anticipation of being allowed to re-open for business in the next few weeks

The key dates agreed today by the Executive are:

Caravan parks, camping sites and self-catering tourist accommodation can re-open on 26 June;

Other tourist accommodation can re-open from 3 July;

Additional sectors of the tourism and hospitality industry can re-open from 3 July – this includes restaurants, cafes and coffee shops;

Public houses and bars will also be permitted to re-open from 3 July for the purposes of selling food and alcohol on a table service basis. Public houses and bars with outside spaces, such as beer gardens, will be able to use these spaces to serve alcohol on a table service basis;

These relaxations also apply to hotel restaurants, bars and outdoor areas.

However, spas and leisure facilities at hotels will not be permitted to open at this stage.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th June 2020 - Eamon McCusker, owner of the Chubby Cherub cafe in Belfast city centre prepares for opening in anticipation of being allowed to re-open for business in the next few weeks

Visitor attractions can also open from 3 July.

The dates are conditional on controlling the rate of transmission of Covid-19 and social distancing measures will remain in place.

The Executive also agreed that consideration should be given to reviewing the two metre social distancing requirement.

Minister Dodds said: “I am very pleased that the Executive has supported my plan to bring forward the conditional date for the re-opening of key parts of our tourism and hospitality industry.

Pubs

“Providing clarity in respect of re-opening dates does not mean that businesses must open on these dates, this will be a matter for individual businesses to decide.

“Some will require longer than others to prepare for re-opening. However, setting the dates is an important step on the road to recovery and in enabling the tourism and hospitality industry to plan ahead.

“These businesses will operate in a new and challenging world when they begin to emerge from Covid-19. Social distancing and hygiene practices will be essential to reassure customers and employees that establishments are as Covid-19 safe as possible”.

Commenting on the announcement that the local hospitality and tourism sector can open their doors again from jULY 3, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “After a tumultuous few months for our hospitality and tourism industry this is the good news they had hoped for.

“The sector has been one of the hardest hit by the restrictions imposed to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Indeed, it was effectively shut down. With fears mounting at a time about exactly when the sector might be able to open its doors again and worries that it could be later this year, to have the Executive agree a reopening date of 3 July is magnificent news and more than we could have wished for at a time.

“This now gives the hospitality and tourism sector, which is such a huge part of the Belfast economy, a chance to salivate something from this summer and work towards a hopefully brighter future.

Our hospitality and tourism industry has done some tremendous work on developing how it can reopen again in a way that is safe for staff and customers.

“Belfast Chamber has been pleased to work with our partners in this effort and commends the entire industry for its resilience throughout this unbelievably tough time”.

Tourism NI also welcomed today’s announcement on indicative dates for re-opening of key sectors of tourism and hospitality

Tourism NI Chief Executive John McGrillen said: “Covid-19 has had a profound effect across Northern Ireland and its economic impact has been most acutely felt by the tourism and hospitality sectors”.

“As part of the Tourism Recovery Steering Group the minister has engaged closely with Tourism NI and a broad range of stakeholders across the tourism and hospitality sectors and we have worked together to identify measures to protect the sector.”

“I am delighted that the NI Executive has today supported the Minister’s plan to bring forward dates for reopening which will allow the sector an opportunity to regain some lost business during our peak season and provide a basis for recovery and a return to growth in the future.”

“Together with representative bodies for the sector, Tourism NI will be publishing reopening guidance in the coming week and will be launching a recovery marketing campaign from the end of June that will focus on key segments in the domestic and Republic of Ireland market”.

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts today said: “This is excellent news for our partners in the Hospitality sector, our town centres and for the local retail sector as a whole.

“Retail and hospitality are two sides of the same coin and are key essential components of our high street, creating experiences for consumers and vital footfall for each other”

“This is another step forward for our private sector and economic recovery”

“However, we need to move to one metre social distancing as soon and as safely as possible”

Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) CEO Janice Gault said: “There have been considerable efforts behind the scenes through the Tourism Recovery Steering Group and we commend the Executive for responding in a positive way to the sector’s requirements.

“We are also encouraged by the recognition of the role that tourism and hospitality have to play in restoring the local economy and social normality as the pandemic subsides. The safety of our staff and visitors remains paramount and it is essential that we give reassurance to local communities as visitors return.

“Unlocking of hotels, in tandem with the wider industry including cafes, restaurants and pubs that serve food and visitor attractions, will enhance the visitor experience and enable Northern Ireland to be promoted as a destination offering, a great stay with lots of things to see and do. Today’s new date also puts Northern Ireland on a similar trajectory to the Republic of Ireland, and will allow us to compete on an all island basis and hopefully, as transport links improve, in the GB market as well”.

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