Covid-19 Holiday at Home voucher scheme scrapped
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has said a planned Holiday at Home voucher scheme to boost Northern Ireland's tourism sector will not proceed.
Mr Lyons told the Assembly that the Executive had not given its support to the initiative after departmental officials found it would not provide value for money.
Under the stimulus scheme, households would have been eligible to claim 50% off a two-night stay in local accommodation, up to the value of £100.
Vouchers, which would have been allocated on a first come first served basis, would also have offered 50% off visits to tourist attractions, up to the value of £20.
Mr Lyons said he had urged the Executive to consider the Holiday at Home scheme despite department officials being unable to stand over its value for money.
"Unfortunately the holiday at home scheme is now not proceeding," he told Assembly question time.
"I had looked forward to being able to bring the scheme through because I recognise the difficult time that hotels and the hospitality industry more generally has had over the last number of months.
"I had brought this to my department, they were considering the business case for the scheme but we're unable to confirm that it offered value for money.
"However, because I believed that it would give that much-needed boost, and combined private and public sector money, that it would have been worth considering.
"So, I therefore issued a ministerial direction to my departmental accounting officer and that required it to be taken to the Executive or the Minister of Finance (Conor Murphy).
"Unfortunately, the Executive was not willing to approve the scheme and neither was the Department for Finance, so unfortunately it will now not be able to progress."
Mr Lyons said the scheme would have delivered a "significant economic boost" to the region.
"I thought that would have been a really good way to boost the economy and keep the hospitality and hotel sector, in particular, going during those really difficult months of January, February and March time," he said.
The minister added: "I'm very disappointed that I wasn't able to secure support for what could have been really beneficial measures during a really difficult time."
Mr Lyons said he had secured £6.5 million to boost tourism marketing activity in the remainder of the financial year.
"I hope in some way that that does help those businesses that are struggling," he said.
The minister said £1.6 million of money spent through the Executive's other flagship stimulus initiative - the High Street voucher scheme - had been spent with tourism providers.