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Coronavirus: North West 200 axe could cost Northern Ireland economy £12m

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'In dark’: Sam Kennedy

'In dark’: Sam Kennedy

'In dark’: Sam Kennedy

Businesses who rely on trade from the North West 200 have said the decision to postpone could be just the start of months of great uncertainty.

The hugely popular racing event - which had been scheduled for six days in May - pulls in 100,000 visitors and is estimated to contribute at least £12m to the local economy every year.

Yesterday hotels, caravan parks and cafes along the north coast said they felt in the dark about how they would cope with the downturn.

Sam Kennedy, the general manager of the Golf Links Hotel in Portrush, said: "It's not just the North West 200 we're dealing with, it's just six days out of the three-month summer period.

"Before the coronavirus, Causeway Coast and Glens Council was struggling already with things like the Portrush airshow being cancelled.

"Everyone is being affected and we're doing our best to cope."

Mr Kennedy said the hotel restaurant is currently offering a takeaway service in an attempt to keep the kitchens open.

"I have 12 front of house staff and seven kitchen staff, so I don't have the answers for what will happen going forward," he added.

"It's madness and all I'm able to do is to wait for the briefing from the Prime Minister every day."

The Me and Mrs Jones Hotel in Portstewart has 20 rooms which have been booked out in advance for the NW200 week.

Receptionist Heather Ferguson said: "It is a concern, it's a big boost for trade for everyone in the area you know. We've had a few cancellations just due to the coronavirus but other than that we still are steady enough.

"There should definitely be some help from the Government because if we do have to shut that means staff won't get paid and I think everywhere is in the same boat"

David Bradley from Portballintrae Caravan Park said the decision to delay the North West 200 would hit local shops the hardest.

"It's pretty bad up here already," he said.

"Between the weather and the virus, it's shocking.

"At the height of the season we would usually have 200 vans, meaning at least 400 people.

"Most customers will have paid up front already, so we aren't affected quite as much, but it's the local shops that are going to get trounced really badly."

Emma Hamilton from the Strawberry Fayre tearoom in Coleraine said the business is now offering free home delivery to offset the drop in footfall during the North West 200.

NW200 organisers said: "Our paramount desire is to act responsibly and do all we can to protect everyone from the threat posed by the virus.

"We enjoy the full support of loyal sponsors and stakeholders in making this decision but apologise for any inconvenience it has caused to them, our competitors, volunteers and race fans."

Belfast Telegraph