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£50 voucher plan to help boost Northern Ireland tourism industry proposed

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NI Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault says the introduction of £50 vouchers would be a weclome move

NI Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault says the introduction of £50 vouchers would be a weclome move

PA

NI Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault says the introduction of £50 vouchers would be a weclome move

A plan to boost Northern Ireland's struggling tourism industry could see households handed £50 vouchers.

Under the proposals, promotions would be run in partnership with media outlets, with a set number of vouchers allocated to readers to redeem at participating businesses.

It is part of a series of recommendations from a working group set up to explore ways to mitigate against the impact of Covid-19.

The pandemic is described as an "existential threat" to the industry in a document obtained by BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Business programme.

The draft document, reported to be from late July, is the result of meetings between the Department for the Economy and industry bodies.

Similar voucher schemes have already been introduced in other regions.

And while it is one of a range of options under consideration, Janice Gault, chief executive of the NI Hotels Federation, said that if the plan was to get the go-ahead, it would be a welcome boost.

"There has been a recognition from the Executive of the impact on Covid-19 on the tourism economy," she said.

"Government on a local and national level has also realised the role that tourism plays not only in the economic well-being of the region but in its social infrastructure.

"A number of interventions are being looked at to stimulate and support the market over the winter. In other regions we have seen the introduction of vouchers, government support and subsidised stays. The Republic of Ireland has a €125 voucher available from October 1 with other destinations like Sicily proposing government funded discounts up until the end of 2021.

"There have been a number of innovative measures taken to support the sector including Eat Out to Help Out which have been aimed at the consumer and these have helped built confidence and given businesses an opportunity to generate additional revenue."

Economy Minister Diane Dodds established the working group to map out a post-Covid recovery strategy.

A Department for the Economy spokesperson said "the action plan is still in draft form and yet to complete due process," and "it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage."

Other elements of the draft plan include a comprehensive Covid-testing programme at airports across Ireland. New marketing campaigns would be put in place in Northern Ireland and the Republic, estimated to cost £11m over three years. A 'local lockdown' fund would also be created, with £5m of targeted financial support for the coach industry and £2m for B&B operators.

Belfast Telegraph