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Covid-19: Hospitality and Tourism

Volume 677: debated on Wednesday 24 June 2020

What steps his Department is taking to support Northern Ireland’s hospitality and tourism industries to prepare for the lifting of covid-19 lockdown restrictions. (903605)

The UK Government have made £1.3 billion of additional funding available to the Executive as part of the coronavirus response. That has enabled them to provide £25,000 grants to businesses in these sectors and to extend the initial three-month business rates holiday to 12 months for most Northern Ireland businesses. Prior to lockdown, I visited many of Northern Ireland’s beautiful tourist attractions and saw first-hand the amazing experience and the giant welcome that Northern Ireland offers to visitors. I look forward to encouraging everyone to visit as soon as the public health guidelines allow.

I agree wholeheartedly that tourism is indeed a jewel in Northern Ireland’s crown. Does the Minister agree that—subject to public health guidance, of course—now is the opportune time to really promote Northern Ireland as a destination? As it is in the common travel area, quarantine does not apply to English, Welsh and Scottish visitors, so they can fly into Belfast or sail across the Irish sea and still be on staycation.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I absolutely encourage people to avail themselves of those opportunities. It is worth noting that on 1 May the UK Government, together with the Executive, announced a generous £5.7 million funding support package for City of Derry and Belfast City airports so that we can keep this connectivity going. There is a huge opportunity for Northern Ireland tourism. As we enter the recovery phase, many more people from across the UK can go and visit the beautiful sights across Northern Ireland.