John McGrillen, CEO of Tourism NI, visited Portrush this week to meet with local tourism industry representatives as well as the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Alderman Mark Fielding.
During his visit Mr McGrillen discussed how Covid-19 has affected local businesses and why staycations are the immediate priority.
“Here in Northern Ireland the message will be about staying at home, supporting local. It will focus on the fact that we have a fantastic offering on our doorstep for people who live here and for our visitors coming across the border. We will be building on our successful ‘Say Hello to More’ campaign which created awareness of the value for money opportunities here”.
“Typically 30% of our overnight spend is domestic but now we have a significant number of people who would normally travel abroad but can’t and they might want to take a holiday at some point. Their options are limited to the island of Ireland and that’s our opportunity.”
“For the Republic of Ireland market there’s a challenge with the perception of distance. Our future theme will be how a “small step” can lead to a “giant adventure”. And as we seek to rebuild our tourism markets from Great Britain and beyond I am greatly heartened by this week’s announcement that Aer Lingus will be opening a base at Belfast City Airport and will be operating six new routes across the UK.”
Alderman Mark Fielding said;
“This is a challenging time for the tourism and hospitality sector which is so important to our local economy. We are grateful for all of the assistance, guidance and investment from Tourism Northern Ireland throughout this crisis. Council has a vital role to play in assisting the recovery by collaborating with stakeholder agencies and the tourism providers to ensure we optimise opportunities for a return to business in our area”.
Through the Tourism Recovery Taskforce Tourism NI has rolled out a range of support for the industry since start of the Covid-19 crisis including a helpline to provide advice and guidance on financial support, a recovery marketing campaign, reopening guidance, a website development grant scheme, a visits programme for tour operators and media, and a ‘We’re Good to Go’ consumer mark to provide confidence for tourism and hospitality staff and customers.
Tourism NI has also welcomed recent UK Government initiatives such as the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme and a 6 month reduction in VAT for tourism and hospitality businesses.