Hotels and tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland have been given the green light to reopen their doors on July 20.
The Northern Ireland Executive has confirmed the move as part of the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Economy Minister Diane Dodds made the announcement this afternoon (Monday).
“Covid-19 has presented an unprecedented challenge for our tourism industry, as it has for tourism markets around the world,” she said.
“I believe the time is right to provide the tourist accommodation sector with clarity about opening dates.
“I want to build upon the positive progress in managing the spread of the virus and begin to re-open our tourism industry in a safe and managed way.”
The key dates agreed by the Executive today for re-opening tourist accommodation are:
20 July 2020 – holiday and home parks; caravan sites; self-catering properties. As they are self-contained and may require less advance notice before opening, the opening times for these types of accommodation may be advanced to earlier than 20 July depending on scientific advice;
20 July 2020 – guesthouses; guest accommodation; B&Bs; hotels; hostels. The Tourism Steering Group will be asked to work with the sector to explore what facilities and amenities can safely be made available by hotels and recommendations will be brought to the Executive in due course.
The Minister did stress, however, that progress on re-opening will depend on controlling the rate of transmission of the virus.
She added: “These dates are conditional on the continued containment of the spread of Covid-19.”
Further work is under way to assess the potential to re-open pubs and restaurants and all other parts of the tourism sector.
The Minister continued: “Tourist accommodation will operate in a new, and challenging, world when it begins to emerge from Covid-19.
“We need to enable businesses to plan ahead to ensure social distancing and hygiene practices are in place and staff are trained. These practices will also be essential to reassure customers and employees that establishments are Covid-19 safe.
“Enabling accommodation businesses to generate essential revenue will help to protect individuals and livelihoods which support families and communities across Northern Ireland.”
The Tourism Recovery Steering Group, which the Minister chairs, and its supporting Working Group, will take relevant UK safe working guidance and make it specific to NI as overarching tourism sector guidance. A safety charter mark is also being considered.
The proposals have been informed by engagement with the tourism industry through the Tourism Recovery Working Group.