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NI's tourism industry may be 'reshaped' in whole new form: Dodds

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Economy Minister Diane Dodds

Economy Minister Diane Dodds

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Economy Minister Diane Dodds

Northern Ireland's tourism sector has gone from a £1bn industry to "start-up mode" and could be rebuilt in a way very different to what existed before the Covid-19 crisis, the Economy Minister has said.

But Diane Dodds said the industry - which has been largely closed down since the middle of March - would have a vital part to play in economic recovery when the crisis is over.

All guest accommodation is closed, apart from a small number providing beds for hospital patients or NHS workers.

Mrs Dodds spoke at the first meeting of the tourism recovery working group, which has been set up to help the industry rebuild after the lockdown. She told members that research pointed to the domestic market being key to the sector's recovery.

The DUP MLA noted that in the short term it could be to Northern Ireland's advantage that 76% of tourism spend came from the UK and the island of Ireland last year.

She added: "The challenges are difficult, but with crisis comes opportunity.

"What we are seeing is a resetting of global tourism. Previous assumptions which informed the business no longer apply. Our tourism destinations are effectively in start-up mode.

"This will allow us to reshape our industry in a way that brings greatest benefit to local communities and to our economy as a whole."

She said Covid-19 had transformed Northern Ireland's tourism sector - a £1bn industry employing 65,000 people last year.

But the circumstances were also an opportunity to reshape the industry.

"So, whilst we continue to face many challenges ahead, I am very conscious of the importance of planning ahead and that we identify plans for recovery which can be implemented in the future, when it is appropriate to do so," she said.

"A cohesive approach will be vital to this recovery and will require partnership with the industry and across government."

Belfast Telegraph