16 Apr 2020

Message from Tourism NI Chief Executive John McGrillen

On behalf of everyone at Tourism NI I would like to thank all those who completed our Covid-19 Business Survey in the midst of such difficult and challenging times for the tourism industry. We have had an unprecedented response from right across our sector with over 1,300 businesses and organisations making contact. It is clear from the initial findings that a very high volume of businesses are acutely concerned about access to funding as well as issues such as rates relief, insurance and future support.

A big thank you also to our industry associations, in particular Hospitality Ulster, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, alongside our Councils who actively promoted the survey to their membership which has contributed to the very positive response rate. Over recent weeks a range of initiatives have been put in place by Treasury and the Northern Ireland Executive. The purpose of the survey was to provide an evidence base for ministers and their officials for their ongoing discussions with the UK Government on how existing schemes may be refined and inform the design of any additional interventions which may be required to support the tourism sector.

The key findings of the survey include:

  • 79% of businesses stated that Covid-19 would have a severe impact on their business in the short term (0-3 months) and 63% stated it would be severe in the longer term (4 months +).
  • 73% of businesses who have had any loss of business state that ’none’ of it will be covered by their current insurance.
  • 33% of businesses are not eligible for the NI schemes as they do not pay business rates.
  • 47% of businesses are not eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as they do not operate a PAYE scheme.
  • 50% of all businesses had reduced staff number.  427 businesses indicated that they had furloughed, laid off with pay or made temporarily redundant, nearly 9,000 staff (full time, part time and seasonal). 418 businesses indicated that they had permanently laid off nearly 1,300 staff (full time, part time and seasonal)
  • Whilst the Tourism Hospitality and Retail Grant Scheme is welcomed by businesses, many are not sure if they are eligible for the scheme or how to access it as scheme parameters are not yet known. When bars, pubs and restaurants are extracted from the survey, only 22% of tourism businesses believe that they are eligible for the current schemes while 25% believe that they are not.
  • Of the pubs, bars and restaurants responding 16% believe that they are ineligible, whilst 42% believe that they have access to any grant support.
  • Only 19 % of accommodation providers responding believed that they were eligible for grant support.

Tourism NI welcomes the news that the Executive has agreed a further £40 million of support for those businesses not currently supported by the grant schemes already rolled out by the NI Executive and UK Government. I hope that the information collated through this survey will be used by Departments to help inform the development of further business support schemes.

A number of businesses have asked us to follow up directly with them and we will be doing so immediately to offer advice and practical help. For anyone else seeking advice please be assured that it is available through our dedicated Covid-19 Business Support Helpline 02895 925313.

Our team of specialist advisers can signpost to more information on the financial support packages available, as well as advice on contract and employment law, cash-flow management, booking terms and conditions and advice for accommodation providers.

Thank you again for your support.

John McGrillen

Tourism NI Chief Executive