3,000 tourism businesses ‘may not survive’ without immediate help

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: The Northern Ireland tourism industry has told the economy minister 3,000 tourism businesses might not survive without immediate help.

Minister Diane Dodds said there had been “an alarming drop-off in activity” in the sector.

She revealed Titanic Belfast, a major attraction, was seeing visitor numbers down 50% on this time last year.

Meanwhile the Balmoral Show has been postponed until August.

It is Northern Ireland’s biggest agricultural event and attracted 120,000 people last year.

Seven new coronavirus cases were confirmed in NI on Monday, bringing the total to 52.

MrsDodds said the executive was working on a stimulus package.

She said there would be some measures on business rates, the property taxes paid by companies.

However, she did not commit to the same measures introduced in England.

MrsDodds also suggested a recession was likely, saying the modest growth forecast for Northern Ireland this year will be “wiped out or worse”.

Balmoral Show

The decision to postpone the Balmoral Show followed a meeting of the management on Monday afternoon.

The show was due to have been held over four days from 13-16 May at the Maze near Lisburn.

It has now been pushed back to 19-22 August.

Belfast City Council has taken the decision to close concert venues the Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall as well as St George’s Market.

Also on Monday, Finance Minister Conor Murphy said he hopes to make an announcement soon regarding support for NI businesses under pressure as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Murphy was answering an urgent question from Alliance assembly member Andrew Muir, who asked him to outline his plans to safeguard jobs during the Covid-19 outbreak by providing support through the non-domestic rating system.

Mr Muir said many local business people are “worried sick” about the difficult decisions ahead and the risk of bankruptcy.

Mr Murphy told the assembly his department wants to put together a package that recognises there has been movement as a result of the initiative taken by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to give small businesses in England a rates holiday.

Mr Murphy said he is prepared to look at the timing of rates bills.

However, he said Monday’s executive meeting had been interrupted and he could not make an announcement of a financial package until he had been given formal approval by the other ministers.

Representatives from Hospitality Ulster also met with the first minister and deputy first minister and the economy minister on Monday.

Chief executive Colin Neill said: “The hospitality industry is the first hit, will be the worst hit and will be harder to recover.

“We need practical solutions, we need to be working with government and we need government to give us leadership.

“We have said we will do everything asked of us and more and to date we have done that.

“As this situation develops, if and when we have to close we need packages to support our people.

“Our staff rely on us to put bread on their table and we need a coordinated approach to know they’re okay.

“Then we need to start on all the things to save the businesses to ensure they have jobs when they come back.”

Courtesy: (BBC)