Northern Ireland news

Travel agents could enjoy rates holiday to recover from Covid-19, says Diane Dodds

Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds has said the Stormont executive will looks at "long-term intervention" for the travel industry following the Covid-19 crisis
Michael McHugh, PA

Travel agents could enjoy a rates holiday for the next year to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, Economy Minister Diane Dodds has suggested.

International travel ground to a virtual halt due to coronavirus.

Large numbers of tourists from the Republic have headed north but travel agents still face major challenges, Ms Dodds said.

She added: "I think that we will need to look at maybe an immediate intervention but also a long-term intervention, something like rates relief for the next year.

"These businesses do have a good future but the tail of recovery from Covid is long for them and the road perilous in that recovery.

"I would like to see them being supported."

TUV Assembly member Jim Allister said the situation had been known about for months and queried why there was no package yet agreed.

Mrs Dodds said the sector was among a very long list of those who she had highlighted to the Executive as needing support.

The DUP minister said she had met representatives from the industry and understood the effect of the pandemic on the sector.

They have been able to avail of support from the British government and Executive, and recently met Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

Mrs Dodds said: "Tourism from the Republic of Ireland has increased very, very significantly over the past number of months, given the promotions around staycations and the fact that people were unwilling to travel."

She added: "That is a good thing and something we hope will continue, a market we think we can expand.

"I understand the very grave difficulties that travel agents (face) and those that visit overseas have been impacted by the travel restrictions and there is a case for intervention from the Executive."

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