The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, has said that a new five-year tourism strategy will be “critical” to the recovery and sustainable growth of the borough’s hospitality and tourism sector in the coming years.
The Mayor’s comments came following a full meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council (MEABC) at which approval was granted to proceed to Phase Two of its specialist Hospitality and Tourism Recovery Task Force.
Chief among plans for this next phase will be the appointment of a new Tourism Specialist Chair, who will oversee the development and implementation of a five-year Integrated Tourism Strategy.
“The hospitality and tourism sector in Mid and East Antrim has long been one of our most important economic drivers – not only attracting thousands of international and domestic tourists to the area, but creating jobs and greatly enhancing the culture and lifestyle of our communities and citizens across the borough,” said the Mayor.
“In recent weeks we have seen major efforts to prepare the sector for reopening and have launched our innovative #RediscoverMEA campaign, which has already been hugely successful in targeting specific market segments such as ‘staycations’, day-trippers and visitors from GB and ROI.
“All of this has been made possible thanks to the unparalleled expertise, unrelenting energy and strategic insight of our Hospitality and Tourism Recovery Task Force who, like our Manufacturing Task Force, have proven that this collaborative model works exceptionally well for our borough.”
Both initiated and currently chaired by MEABC Chief Executive Anne Donaghy, the Task Force was established to provide a platform for key players and influencers to work together to deliver a clear action plan focused on recovery, and to raise the profile of the local tourism economy within Mid and East Antrim.
She explained: “The Task Force quickly set two immediate strategic objectives. Firstly, to deliver a recovery plan that supports the recovery from COVID-19 of our local businesses, as has clearly been seen in Phase One.
“Secondly, to rebuild our tourism economy and develop a new Integrated Tourism Strategy for the borough that focuses on restoring sustainable growth over the next five years – which will now be taken forward as we move into Phase Two, led by our newly appointed Tourism Specialist Chair.
“Feedback to date from across the sector about the level of support received from the Task Force has been extremely positive and businesses across the borough have commended Council on the level of support received around their recent reopening. I have every confidence that this will continue to be the case as we move into Phase Two and that hospitality and tourism across Mid and East Antrim will continue making great strides towards recovery and growth in the longer term.”
According to Councillor Andrew Wilson, Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, MEABC is committed to doing everything it can in addition to the Task Force to support the borough’s hospitality and tourism sector.
“Anything we can do to support these sectors by way of a medium-term strategy is to be welcomed,” he said. “Bold and forward-thinking decisions have already been taken by Council and it’s our job to ensure that the sector is supported in every way possible going forward.
“On recent visits around the borough we saw first-hand that our local businesses have not been idle during lockdown – rather, they have invested heavily in facility upgrades, PPE and even temperature scanners. We are hopeful that this proactivity and resilience can continue to be channelled into their recovery in the coming months and that they will soon see a return on their investment as consumer confidence slowly recovers.”