The Holiday At Home scheme was arranged as a way of boosting the tourism industry in Northern Ireland, the scheme would have offered holiday makers in the country £100 off local tourism stays. However it seems that departmental officials got cold feet over the scheme and decided that it would not provide enough value for money for it to be effective enough. This is despite the Economy Minister Gordon Lyons backing its introduction, believing it would give a real boost to the tourist industry.
Problems Within The Tourism Industry Have Not Gone Away
This is what Chief Executive of the NI Tourism Alliance, Joanne Stuart, said on BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster about the scheme, as quoted in an article on the Belfast Telegraph website:
“We have been promised this for a long time since the tourism recovery action plan came into place, but the focus has been instead on the Spend Local card,” she said.
“I think there is a misapprehension that because we had a good July, August and September that all our problems have gone away, and that certainly isn’t the case.
“In 2021 we are down about 55% on what we would normally see in any one year, on top of 2020 which was similar,” she added.
“So, although we have had a couple of good months, it is still a very hard time on the hotel and tourism sectors and this [voucher scheme] is something which would have helped generate some business in the slow months from January to March.”
This Is A Very Challenging Time
She went on to say that:
“I think we are into a challenging time at the moment with the Covid certification and also with the restrictions imposed around omicron,” the tourism chief said.
“Not to mention cancellations coming up to Christmas for big parties.
“These challenges mean we are not able to get back to normal trading which is what businesses want to see.”
She added that the announcement of additional funding of £6.5 million invested into marketing campaigns will hopefully help to generate business “throughout the tough winter ahead.”
“It’s got to be a balance, at the end of the day we need to generate that demand and it is important that Northern Ireland is seen as a destination, particularly within our home market,” said Dr Stuart.
“We hope that this additional funding towards marketing will help but if we can’t get through this next period without some reasonable business being generated there has got to be some financial support required.”
If this additional funding is going to be enough for businesses in the tourism industry only time will tell, but tourism is one of the key components of our economy so it is so important we do all we can to support and protect these businesses so that we will have a healthy sector in the years to come.