Northern Ireland's tourism industry expected to recover 80 per cent of pre-pandemic level in 2022

Tourism NI chief John McGrillen (centre) with broadcaster Wendy Austin (left) and Judith Owens of Titanic Belfast. Picture by Darren Kidd/Press Eye

THE north's tourism industry should return to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year, Tourism NI has said.

But the body said “a fuller recovery” from the impact of Covid-19 could take until 2024.

The comments came during Tourism NI's first ever virtual tourism conference at Belfast's ICC on Monday.

The event, which carried the theme ‘Survive, Revive, Thrive' saw industry stakeholders explore the detail of the Department for the Economy's recently published Tourism Recovery Action Plan.

The plan, developed by the Tourism Recovery Steering Group at Stormont, highlights the need for government support and flexibility to ensure business continuity within the industry.

It also looks at restoring consumer demand and confidence; the importance of safeguarding connectivity; and enhancing competitiveness.

While the home tourism market is rebounding well, the industry relies heavily on overseas visitors.

According to action plan, 53 per cent of all tourism spend in 2019 came from visitors from outside the Island of Ireland.

The year leading up to the pandemic represented a high water mark for the industry with approximately 70,000 people employed across Northern Ireland.

Visitor spend hit £1 billion in 2019, up 89 per cent on 2009 levels.

Speaking at Monday's virtual conference, Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said: “Successful delivery of the Tourism Recovery Action Plan will require us all to work together in partnership.

“Everyone has a part to play from government departments, tourism agencies, councils, and representative bodies to destination management organisations and most importantly the industry.

“I am confident that the actions within the recovery plan will support our development as a sustainable and competitive tourism destination that meets the needs of future visitors, creates sustainable employment and makes a positive contribution to local communities right across Northern Ireland.”

In addition to grants from the executive, Tourism NI said it had invested around £25m on a range of support measures for the industry.

A high profile advertising campaign is currently being rolled out on both sides of the border encouraging staycations, which Tourism NI said is “designed to kickstart the season”.

Tourism NI said it is also promoting the ‘We're Good to Go' industry mark, that will indicate that businesses have met all recommended safety guidelines.

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