Tourism Chief praises local COVID response during visit to Borough

THE Chief Executive of Tourism NI has praised the local response to the pandemic during a flying visit to the Borough this week.

Along with Mayor Billy Webb, John McGrillen met with local council officials and tourism industry reps to hear first-hand how they have responded to COVID-19 and their future plans.

Mr McGrillen spoke with owners and staff from several local businesses, including The Rabbit Hotel and Retreat, The Hilton Hotel Templepatrick, The Gateway Visitor Centre and Antrim Castle Gardens, to discuss the impact of repeated lockdowns, how businesses are expanding in the borough and the council’s plans to support tourism.

And the tourism boss was clearly impressed by what he saw.

“This has been a challenging time for the tourism and hospitality sector which is extremely important to our local economy,” he said.

“The Tourism Recovery Action Plan will play a key role in helping the industry recover and successful delivery of the plan will require us all to work together in partnership.”

He added: “Recovery will take time, however with the successful roll out of the vaccine programme, the lifting of restrictions and the opening up of the Common Travel Area, I am confident that by the end of 2022 the tourism industry in Northern Ireland could be back to 80 percent of the activity and employment levels of 2019 and see a full recovery by the end of 2024.

“I’d like to say a big thank you to the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and to all the local tourism representatives that I got to meet during my visit.

“They are working extremely hard to give visitors a warm and safe welcome and will benefit greatly from local support.”

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb said the Borough had been paving the way for a comeback.

“It was a privilege to welcome the Chief Executive of Tourism NI, John McGrillen to showcase some of the fantastic tourism assets we have on offer,” said the Alliance rep.

“Our tourism providers have been majorly affected this past 17 months due to the ongoing restrictions and I am delighted that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel as the vaccine programme continues to be rolled out and restrictions are eased.

“Antrim and Newtownabbey has an extensive range of accommodation, catering and activity providers making it a great place for visitors to enjoy.

“I look forward to continuing our partnership working with Tourism NI as we progress through the recovery stages following the pandemic and hope that the remainder of 2021 gives the tourism industry a welcome boost.”

For more information on how Tourism NI can support businesses visit: www.tourismni.com/contact-us/

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