27 May 2020

Update and Opportunity to Engage with the Tourism Recovery Working Group

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.

Our tourism industry is part of a globally integrated ecosystem that has essentially shut down due to the closing of borders and air routes, the lockdown of entire regions and the consequent total loss of demand. Likewise, the domestic tourism and hospitality market has shut down as a result of the restrictions.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds announced the establishment of a Tourism Recovery Steering Group on 23 April to lead planning and preparation for the recovery of our tourism industry.

Due to the scale and complexity of the issues, including a very challenging budgetary environment, a cohesive, partnership approach between private sector stakeholders and partners across government is required.

The Minister has appointed the CEO of Tourism NI, John McGrillen, as chair of the Working Group that will facilitate broad engagement with stakeholders across the Northern Ireland tourism industry and secure their buy-in to a cohesive and collective response arising from the pandemic.

The primary purpose of the Working Group is to support the work of the Minister’s Tourism Recovery Steering Group. The Working Group will help to identify the key issues facing  sectors across tourism, consider required interventions, make recommendations to the Steering Group and identify potential resource requirements to implement the Working Group’s recommendations.

Role of the Tourism Recovery Working Group

The Tourism Recovery Working Group will:

  • Conduct an assessment of the immediate impact of COVID-19 on the Northern Ireland Tourism Industry;
  • Consider measures which will be required to protect the sector in the pre-recovery period;
  • Identify issues, barriers and constraints which need to be addressed;
  • Identify Research and Insights which may be required to support the work of the Group;
  • Help to inform, the guidance being developed to facilitate the lifting of Covid-19;
  • Identify ways to communicate to businesses and consumers, at the appropriate time, plans for the reopening of tourism and hospitality facilities.
  • Contribute to and secure industry support for TNI and TI destination marketing plans;
  • Assess implications of marketing and consumer research in the domestic, ROI, UK and subsequently global markets;
  • Provide recommendations and identify key actions relevant to supporting recovery and re-growing of the Sector in Northern Ireland; and
  • Identify the potential funding required to support recovery and how any such funding should be applied.

The Working Group has identified 10 “Task and Finish” groups that will consider the issues facing specific segments of the industry and bring these to the Working Group for consideration:

  • Air & Sea Connectivity
  • Ground Transport
  • Hospitality Industry Steering Group
  • Accommodation
  • Events
  • Trade
  • MICE
  • Attractions and Venues
  • Small Experience Providers
  • Golf

The diagram below illustrates the overall supporting structures and alignment of the Tourism Recovery Taskforce:

Working Group Membership

The Working Group membership includes the key tourism & hospitality representative bodies, a number of invited strategic stakeholders and the chairs of each of the identified Task & Finish Groups.

John McGrillen

Tourism Northern Ireland

Working Group Chair

Shane Clarke

Tourism Ireland

Working Group Member

Joanne Stuart

NI Tourism Alliance

Working Group Member

Janice Gault

NI Hotels Federation

Working Group Member

Colin Neill

Hospitality Ulster

Working Group Member

John Greer


Working Group Member

Gerry Lennon

Visit Belfast

Working Group Member

Rob Rankin


Working Group Member

Odhran Dunne

Visit Derry

Working Group Member

Roisin McKee


Working Group Member

Judith Owens

Titanic Belfast Limited

Working Group Member

Heather McLachlan

National Trust

Working Group Member

John Hood

Invest NI

Working Group Member

Albert Harrison

City of Derry Airport

Air & Sea Connectivity Chair

Karen Magill

Bus and Coach NI

Ground Transport Chair

Brian Murphy


Hospitality Chair

Stephen Meldrum

NI Hotels Federation

Accommodation Chair

Adrian Doyle

SSE Arena

Events Chair

David Boyce

Tourism Ireland

Trade Chair

Oonagh O’Reilly


MICE Chair

Laura McCorry

Historic Royal Palaces

Attractions and Venues Chair

Phil Ervine

Taste and Tour

Small Experience Providers Chair

Aileen Martin

Hastings Hotels

Golf Chair

Geraldine Fee

DfE, Tourism Policy

Working Group Member

John Simms

DfE, Tourism Policy

Working Group Member

Laura Loughridge

DfE, Air Connectivity

Working Group Member

Paul Donnelly


Working Group Member











The Working Group will:

  • Provide a single voice on recommended actions/measures to be put forward to the Steering Group for consideration in respect of the development of a Tourism Recovery Plan.
  • Engage with a wide range of experts and stakeholders through the Task & Finish Groups.
  • Undertake any research or advisory work commissioned by the Steering Group.
  • Provide ongoing feedback on the effectiveness of the Government and Executive’s response measures.
  • Provide ongoing feedback on the effectiveness of the implementation of the Recovery Plan

Opportunity to Get Involved

We want to ensure that all businesses and stakeholders underpinning the NI tourism industry have the opportunity to inform and influence the planning and preparations for recovery.  We are in the process of launching a new industry engagement platform which will be used to share updates on the work of the Working Group and to engage with the wider industry through discussion forums and surveys. 

The new platform can be found here:  https://tourismni.ntropydata.com/  (please note this link is not supported in Internet Explorer.)

Progress to Date

The Tourism Recovery Working Group led by Tourism NI and chaired by John McGrillen held its second meeting on Wednesday 20th May.  Key areas of discussion included:

      • Agreement of an initial set of priorities to raise with the Ministerial Steering Group
      • Development of operational guidelines
      • Proposed Tourism NI Marketing Campaign

Initial Priorities

The Working Group agreed an initial set of priorities to be tabled at the next meeting of the Steering Group on 19th June:

    • The need for a timeline to facilitate planning for re-opening;
    • Post-Covid-19 Operational Guidelines and clarity around the process for agreement and oversight;
    • The development and implementation of a nationally recognised safety kitemark/chartermark along with agreement on its oversight;
    • Regular, timely and relevant consumer sentiment analysis with a marketing campaign ready to run;
    • Ongoing relevant financial support mechanisms;
    • Grants and training to support implementation of new post COVID public health requirements