Councillor welcomes £2m tourism voucher scheme

Councillor welcomes £2m tourism voucher scheme

13 January 2021

A VOUCHER scheme aimed at reviving local tourism has been welcomed by a politician who is pleased that bed and breakfast providers are eligible for the new initiative.

Spearheaded by Tourism NI, full details are expected shortly on the scheme which could mean a £100 discount on a hotel stay and £20 off a visit to a tourist attraction.

It is being suggested that the scheme could be launched when current Covid-19 restrictions have eased, with £2m in funding earmarked for the project.

Designed to boost tourism after its worst ever year in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, Downpatrick area councillor, Dermot Curran, is glad that the discount on overnight stays applies to bed and breakfast providers who are registered with Tourism NI.

Last year, Stormont economy minister Diane Dodds established a working group made up of industry representatives — which included Tourism NI Chief executive John McGrillen —

to make recommendations as to how to aid the recovery of the tourism sector.

Cllr Curran said the Newry, Mourne and Down area relied heavily upon tourism and hoped that, post Covid, this “critically important sector” will be provided with every assistance to help with its recovery.

He said there were a number of bed and breakfast providers in the East Down area in particular who had been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.

“Tourism is something that we do very well in this area and is one of the local council’s main priorities,” continued Cllr Curran.

“I hope the voucher scheme will be launched and am pleased that Tourism NI has confirmed that bed and breakfast providers are eligible. The plan is to send vouchers to homes and I have no doubt that they will be widely used.”

Cllr Curran said he hopes that, with the coronavirus vaccination programme being rolled out, “some form of normality” will return over the coming weeks and months.

He said the tourism sector in particular was subject to restrictions for the majority of last year as a result of the pandemic with these continuing in the early part of 2021.

“The voucher scheme is designed to provide people discounts at participating accommodation providers and attractions and is timely. It will be introduced when the time is right and many of those who work in the tourism accommodation and attraction sectors will welcome it,” said Cllr Curran.

He said with Northern Ireland’s tourism sector previously valued at £1bn, the industry had believed 2020 would have been a record year before Covid intervened.

“Newry, Mourne and Down relies heavily upon tourism and that given the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on it, the industry must be given every opportunity to recover,” said the Downpatrick councillor.

“A healthy tourism industry equates to a healthy economy and with a vaccination programme being rolled out, we all hope that the tourism industry will experience a rebirth.”

Cllr Curran added: “Newry, Mourne and Down Council put tourism at the top its agenda and rightly so given the many attractions and natural beauty that we have in abundance. 

“Tourism is the lifeblood of the local economy and while it will take time for the district’s economy to recover to pre-coronavirus levels, the need for important building blocks to be put put in place to allow this to happen is vital. The proposed voucher scheme is one such important block.”