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Public urged to holiday at home and give boost to Northern Ireland tourism


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Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry

Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry

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Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry

The owners of three major tourism businesses have urged Northern Ireland people to support them when the lockdown lifts.

Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry and Bangor's Pickie Park said their long-term survival will depend on the support of the public.

While they are separate companies, they do have directors in common.

The businesses said clear guidance on social distancing will have to be provided in future - and would be of particular importance for Crumlin Road Gaol, a well-known venue for concerts and events such as weddings.

The three venues have now secured loans from Danske Bank to keep them afloat. The funding is part of the Government's Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Director Kieran Quinn said: "The timing of the shutdown couldn't have been worse for us and other tourism-related businesses.

"We were coming out of low season and getting ready for the big boom that usually starts at Easter and runs through the summer. We had just made an investment in Exploris to open new attractions.

"This loan will help us keep afloat, but we're hoping we won't be closed for too long.

"When lockdown is lifted we are ready for business, so I'd really encourage people to get out and support local tourism businesses when it is safe to do so. The economy depends on people spending."

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, John McGrillen, the chief executive of Tourism NI, also urges the public to support home-grown attractions.

"To succeed our industry needs the support of local people. We as an industry need to 'embrace the giant spirit' that our fellow citizens have shown in their response to the health crisis.

"When this crisis is over and we begin that journey to recovery we will once again need that local spirit as we campaign to 'holiday at home', 'save jobs and 'protect our tourism industry'."

Mr Quinn said he was worried that social distancing rules will result in restricted numbers - which could mean tourism businesses can't get enough customers through the doors to cover their costs.

He added he hopes other tourism-related businesses will consider the CBILS scheme. "I would say don't be afraid to do it, everyone is in the same boat," he said.

Belfast Telegraph