Mayor welcomes earlier re-opening for hospitality and tourism industry

The Gobbins is one of the area's top visitor attractions.

THE Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, has welcomed the  announcement by the Minister for the Economy that Northern Ireland’s hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars will be allowed to re-open from 03 July 2020 – almost three weeks earlier than originally planned.

With self-accommodation and caravan parks also allowed to re-open earlier, on 26 June, Councillor Johnston said that the announcement would bring a much-needed boost to one of Mid and East Antrim’s “most critical” industries.

“Mid and East Antrim’s rich hospitality and tourism offering is celebrated far and wide and attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the borough every year. The industry is critical not only to our local economy, but to the social and cultural health of the borough,” he said.

“With concerns that the original re-opening date of 20 July would place the industry at a competitive disadvantage against its counterparts in the Republic of Ireland, this much-needed earlier re-opening date is a very welcome boost for what has been one of our hardest hit sectors as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.”

The Minister’s announcement comes shortly on the back of the launch of the MEABC-led ‘MEA Hospitality and Tourism Recovery Task Group’, aimed at helping the local hospitality and tourism industry recover from the impact of the COVID-19 in the coming months and years.

With membership including Tourism Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and a number of local businesses, the Group will work collaboratively to deliver a recovery plan to restore and sustain growth in the industry locally.

The Mayor continued: “Supported by our dedicated Recovery Task Group, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will continue to support hospitality and tourism businesses in any way we can in the coming weeks and months, and in particular, their preparations for re-opening over the next three weeks.

“We very much look forward to welcoming visitors to the borough from 03 July onwards and proudly showcasing the wealth of activities and attractions, culture, culinary talent, outstanding accommodation and natural beauty that Mid and East Antrim has to offer.”

At a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council the Mayor updated councillors on the Northern Ireland Executive’s Five Stage Plan and welcomed the re-opening of small retailers on Friday 12 June.

“We have continued to engage closely with the NI Executive throughout the pandemic, stressing the need for a clear action plan for the re-opening of the hospitality and tourism industry and other businesses as soon as it is safe to do so,” he said.

“It is good to see some more of our businesses starting to open up and I am encouraged by the amount of preparation being made by other businesses as they await confirmation of their re-opening date,” he said.

With recovery gathering pace across Northern Ireland, however, Councillor Johnston reminded councillors of the need to remain vigilant: “Whilst all of this is very encouraging, we must always remain vigilant in relation to any changes in the R number or a peak of deaths in the future.

“Whilst I understand that it has been very tough for many people, we do all of this to save lives and to minimise the potential for a second wave of Coronavirus.”

As relaxations continue to be announced by the Stormont Executive it perhaps makes it time to rediscover the beauty on your doorstep in Mid and East Antrim.

Over the coming weeks the hospitality industry will begin to welcome visitors again with all necessary safety measures implemented and the Council will be showcasing all they have to offer in order to help you plan the ultimate staycation.

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