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Coronavirus: DUP raises tourist trade concerns with minister

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Concerns that Northern Ireland could see much of its summer tourist trade head south have been raised with the Economy Minister. Pictured is Portstewart beach

Concerns that Northern Ireland could see much of its summer tourist trade head south have been raised with the Economy Minister. Pictured is Portstewart beach

Concerns that Northern Ireland could see much of its summer tourist trade head south have been raised with the Economy Minister. Pictured is Portstewart beach

Concerns that Northern Ireland could see much of its summer tourist trade head south have been raised with the Economy Minister.

It follows claims that the three-week delay in reopening hotels would hand the Republic an "open goal". Hotels and other accommodation here are due to open on July 20 - a date chosen to coordinate with the roadmap originally put forward by the Irish Government.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced on Friday that hotels, restaurants and bars serving food can open on June 29.

Lyn Fawcett, whose family owned a string of hotels on the north coast, said unless Northern Ireland also accelerates its lockdown exit plan, it will lose three key weeks of the season.

He warned we risk "giving the Republic our silver and allowing them to eat our lunch off it too".

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said he had raised the issue with his party colleague, Economy Minster Diane Dodds.

In a letter to Mr Fawcett, he said: "I talk with the Economy Minister every morning and have pressed (this issue) and pointed out that we are putting ourselves at a considerable disadvantage with the Irish Republic.

"There is a forum in East Antrim for the hospitality industry and again that is the message which is being fed back to me on almost a weekly basis by those who are involved in hotels, restaurants, caravan parks, camping sites etc.

"I fear we will miss out on the initial wave of people who are now looking to book holidays at home because they cannot travel abroad and I believe it is important that the Chief Medical Officer and the Health Minister moderate their stance on these issues to have a more balanced approach between the physical health of people and the health of the economy."

Speaking on Tuesday, Robin Swann said there are "strategic and creative ways" in which the hospitality sector could reopen, including using outdoor space where the virus was less likely to spread.

He said reopening had to be done "in a managed, respectful, measured approach so that it does not help the spread of the virus".

Belfast Telegraph