Hospitality Ulster has launched a recovery plan for Northern Ireland's hospitality sector, the aim of which is to rebuild the sector, rethink the hospitality offer and revitalise the economy.
The plan, which is called the "Hospitality Ulster Recovery" and was developed by Hospitality Ulster alongside hospitality industry leaders, outlines a range of interventions that Hospitality Ulster said are "required by the Northern Ireland Executive and the Westminster government after the sector has taken the biggest hit of a generation in the fight against COVID-19."
The interventions outlined in the "Hospitality Ulster Recovery Plan" include:
- the establishment of a cross departmental "Hospitality Strategy Steering Group" with direct participation of relevant ministers and senior officials to plan the reopening of the industry;
- the reversal of the previous reopening strategy from "who can open?" - "here are the rules" to "here are the rules, and those that can comply can open";
- the provision of a flexible Localised Restrictions Support Scheme scheme to support businesses until opening is viable;
- a full business rates holiday for 2021/22;
- a re-financing grant to kickstart reopening;
- a VAT rate of 5% and the abolition of UK domestic air passenger duty from the UK government;
- the delivery of a dedicated hospitality marketing campaign, positioned within wider Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland tourism and local council marketing campaigns to rebuild consumer confidence, reinforce the "Good to Go" safety message and drive demand;
- the establishment of a Rent Hardship Fund to support tenants and landlords that have agreed a reduction in rents, with the government making up a proportion of the shortfall;
- and the re-establishment of air and sea connectivity through financial support to Northern Ireland's airports.
Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive Statement
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Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill stated, "The swift roll out of the vaccination programme and the ever declining numbers of new COVID cases are bringing us to the point where the reopening of the hospitality sector is now viable after nearly an entire year of being shut for the greater good.
“We need at least indicative dates for reopening, and we need them now. To make sure that we are ready to go, we have brought forward a whole host of forward thinking ideas to ignite the industry once again.
"We have to rebuild our sector and have set out a clear road map of policy, financial and fiscal interventions which supports a timely and safe reopening of the entire industry.
"We have to rethink about how we get out of lockdown and understand how we do business on one hand, and on the other, how we rise to the challenge of changing consumer trends which will undoubtedly lead to a re-shaping of the hospitality offer. When we get those elements right, then we will see just how important the sector is to the economy and that it will be a key component in its much needed revitalisation.
"I welcome the UK Chancellor's comments in the media this [month] that 'protecting hospitality and hospitality jobs is a matter of social justice' and that he gets the social, cultural and community benefits of hospitality as well as the economic benefit. Going back to normal is simply not good enough."
Hospitality Ulster Chair Statement
Meanwhile, Hospitality Ulster chair David Coynes commented, "We have to acknowledge the resilience of the hospitality sector throughout the toughest period in a generation. I commend those who have been able to see out the worst impacts of this pandemic, it’s been far from easy. It has become clear just how central the hospitality sector is to the economy and also society. It has such an important role in bringing people together and it will play a massive role once we get reopening dates put in front of us.
"This is now the opportunity when the NI Executive can help us help them, in the revitalisation of the beleaguered economy. The social and financial benefits that come from a vibrant hospitality sector are so important for the post pandemic recovery. This has been such an unusual time in all our lives, and we now must not be found wanting when it comes to the restart phase. We have to be ready. This recovery plan sets out clearly what needs to be done."
Hospitality Ulster Vice Chair Statement
Hospitality Ulster vice chair and owner of Coppi & Buba Restaurants Tony O'Neill added, "The governments in Belfast and London need to seriously look at the long term viability of the hospitality sector. It needs to be set on a more sustainable footing so that we can compete in the local and international marketplace. This means that issues such as VAT and reducing the cost base for businesses in the sector should be prioritised. Hospitality businesses in this pandemic have been the worst hit out of all sectors and have had restrictions and closure orders placed upon them. There has been no trade, despite costs of keeping staff, upkeep of premises and a whole range of other bills just to remain shut. This means that we just can’t get going again from a standing start. We need support to get back on our feet and then a series of commitments as outlined in the 'Hospitality Ulster Recovery Plan' to place the sector on a sounder footing. There is still far too much volatility in the running of a business in the hospitality sector and now we face the challenge of going again after nearly a full year of chairs up on the tables."
© 2021 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.