The NI Tourism Alliance were delighted to welcome the Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons, to the Cruise Welcome Terminal to update him on the importance of Tourism and Travel as drivers of economic growth and outline the challenges facing the industry as it starts to rebuild from the devastating impact of the pandemic.

The Minister had the opportunity to tour the Cruise Welcome Terminal, and see first-hand how the funding received from the Department has been used to improve the facilities and ensure that passengers are welcomed in a safe environment.

The Minister was updated on those parts of the industry who have been closed for the last 18 month and are still waiting to reopen such as business conferences and exhibitions and the continuing challenges with disparity of regulations between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland.

Speaking after the meeting, Brenda Morgan MBA, Chair of NITA said;

“We welcomed this opportunity to brief the Minister on the importance of Tourism to the economy, which pre-Covid generated over £1billion in visitor spend to the NI economy with 70% spent by visitors from outside of Northern Ireland.

“As the industry begins to rebuild, it is critical that we address the challenges of Skills, Promotion of NI as a destination and find practical solutions to deal with the changes implemented as a result of the UK leaving the EU such as not accepting ID Cards for visitors from the EU, the challenges for people travelling with pets and ensuring that the UK Immigration policy delivers for Northern Ireland.”

Speaking after his visit Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “I was very pleased to meet with representatives of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance today. Tourism businesses have been amongst those hardest hit by the pandemic and associated restrictions. It was very helpful to hear directly from key stakeholders about the challenges that they have faced and that still persist. My Department’s Tourism Recovery Action Plan sets out key actions to help the tourism and associated sectors recover from these impacts and get back to the record levels of visitor numbers and spend seen in 2019. To take forward delivery of the plan, it is important that the industry, wider tourism ecosystem and my Department continue to work together to form a coherent pathway going forward.

“Following last week’s decision that international cruises could restart in line with the traffic light system for international travel, with strong guidance to the sector outlining the need to manage increased risks and maintain risk mitigations, including use of vaccination and testing, it was therefore very timely to also have the opportunity today to tour the new dedicated cruise welcome facility. This wonderful new facility, part of a £800k programme part funded by my Department through Tourism NI enables larger cruise ships to dock in Belfast and includes a Visitor Information Centre. It is very encouraging that 70 cruise ships are scheduled to call in Belfast in the period through to November 2021.”