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May Day call seeks support to ensure hospitality and tourism survives as a 'viable sector' after shutdown

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NIHF chief executive Janice Gault

NIHF chief executive Janice Gault

NIHF chief executive Janice Gault

The hotel and tourism sector has issued a May Day call as the UK enters its second month of lockdown.

Led by the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation (NIHF), it has called for support to ensure tourism can emerge from lockdown as a "viable sector".

NIHF chief executive Janice Gault said: "The sector has been mothballed and sits on the sideline of the economic playing field. It's uncertain when we can return to trading or what form this will take.

"Uncertainty is impossible to plan for and, whilst it is important to stress that the health and wellbeing of staff and customers remains the number one priority, support is needed to ensure tourism can emerge from lockdown as a viable sector."

The tourism chief said thoughts among those in the sector are now edging towards a return to business.

"A May Day call has come from many sectors of the local economy with none louder than that of the tourism and hospitality sector," she said.

"We really need support to ensure the progress we have made to a £1bn industry and £600m investment in hotels over the last five years is not squandered.

"Tourism has the potential to restore, revive and renew revenue streams once the coronavirus danger has passed. The ask is 'help us, please'."

The plea came as the organisation revealed hotel occupancy levels in March fell by 59% as the impact of Covid-19 started to materialise and people restricted travel. The NIHF said trading for the sector, which has an annual payroll of up to £5m, in the second quarter will be minimal.

Stephen Meldrum, NIHF president, said when any sense of normality is resumed "trading will be very different and it is therefore critical that measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 go hand in hand with support to ensure that Northern Ireland has a viable economy to return to in the coming months".

Belfast Telegraph