Working in the Northern Ireland tourism industry, it must feel like you’ve fallen from the top of the Christmas tree and are hitting every branch on the way down.
Blow after blow, buffeted out of control and not knowing where the next crisis will hit.
The industry has been in damage limitation mode for almost two years.
With new restrictions on those travelling into Northern Ireland bound to hit travel over Christmas already announced, there remained until today the hope that a voucher scheme, similar to the boost given to the high street, would provide a cushion to soften the long hard fall. The promise of a safety net dangled in front of the industry, since even before the high street voucher scheme was mooted, has been whisked away, the Executive deciding any scheme would not provide value for money.
Was there not a similar excuse in deciding how many lifeboats would be deployed along the decks of the Titanic?
Arguments were that it would provide “a significant economic boost” to the tourism industry. Instead, local hospitality must make do with the estimated £1.6m spent through the high street voucher scheme. At this stage it seems like merely a drop in the ocean.
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, who had championed the scheme from day one, served up a consolation prize instead having been able to direct an additional £6.5m towards Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland to help boost the promotion of Northern Ireland in Great Britain and across the world.
“I’m glad that I will be able to provide some indirect support to the sector in some way,” he said.
“I want to preserve their jobs. I want to make sure the tourism sector makes it through to the next financial year when I believe it will take off again.”
Whether it takes off depends on whether planes take off, and passengers take off in them.
Over Christmas and into the New Year is traditionally a big booking season for the summer ahead with local travel agents. With two summer seasons of disappointment behind them the Christmas wish will be for better times ahead.
You do wonder about the merits of flagging these schemes up to the industries affected before any progress is made on determining whether they will prove viable or not.
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