Tourism NI Business Survey Confirms Severe Impact of Covid-19 on Industry

Tourism NI has released the findings of its online survey of tourism and hospitality businesses conducted in the run up to Easter.

The survey had an unprecedented response from across the tourism and hospitality sector with over 1,300 businesses and organisations making contact.

The main findings of the survey include;

Business Performance and Cashflow

  • 79% of businesses stated that Covid-19 would have a severe impact on their business in the short term (0-3 months) and 63% stated it would be severe in the longer term (4 months +) demonstrating a perceived worsening of the situation since March.
  • 73% of businesses who have had any loss of business state that ’none’ of it will be covered by their current insurance.
  • Cashflow and access to funding/working capital is a major concern for many businesses, in particular those with fixed overheads and no means of generating an income due to restrictions in place.
  • More help is sought from banks, insurance companies and many businesses indicated that they wanted business rates relief to be extended from three months to twelve, in line with the rest of the UK. A number of business openly stressed that they may not survive.

Workforce & Jobs

  • 50% of all businesses responding to the survey had reduced staff number. 427 businesses indicated that they had furloughed, laid off with pay or made temporarily redundant, nearly 9,000 staff (full time, part time and seasonal). 418 businesses indicated that they had permanently laid off nearly 1,300 staff (full time, part time and seasonal).
  • This equates to approximately 50% of the job growth achieved across the sector in the last 10 years.

Access to Support

  • 33% of businesses stated they are not eligible for any of the three NI schemes as they do not pay business rates. 47% of businesses indicated they are not eligible for the UK wide Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as they do not operate a PAYE scheme.
  • 55% of business respondents are VAT registered and 67% pay business rates of some form and therefore should eligible for some elements of the current UK Government and NI Business support schemes in place.
  • 44% of respondents categorised themselves as self employed (447 businesses in the survey) with one out of 12 (8%) of these businesses stating that they had been operating for less than 12 months.
  • Eligibility criteria and/or a lack of understanding of eligibility is cited as a barrier to accessing support for a high number of businesses.

Responding to the findings, Tourism NI Chief Executive John McGrillen said;

“The biggest health emergency Northern Ireland has ever faced has also caused an unprecedented economic crisis, and within that our tourism and hospitality sector has been hit hard and hit fast”.

“Our first thoughts must be with grieving families, people in hospital with Covid-19 or ill at home, and with the NHS staff who are working well beyond the call of duty to save lives. Yet this pandemic is having far-reaching consequences for society, the economy and for tourism in Northern Ireland”.

“The results of our survey confirm very clearly that Covid-19 is having a major impact on the tourism and hospitality sector, with significant challenges facing businesses relating to cash flow and working capital”.

“The recent announcements on extensions to the Job Retention Scheme, Coronavirus Interruption Business Loan Scheme, £40 million of further NI Executive support for those businesses not currently supported by existing schemes and the opening of the Hospitality, Tourism and Retail Business Support Scheme are all welcome”.

“It is clear however that further, ongoing support and guidance will be required to allow many businesses to survive”.

“We intend to use the information collated through this survey to inform Government considerations regarding current and future business support. We will also use this information to continue to reshape our own support to businesses, as well as inform the development of a sector wide response plan. This includes continued development of our new online Covid-19 Business Support Hub and its dedicated support helpline, which has already advised hundreds of businesses in recent weeks”.

Tourism NI’s online resource includes the latest Government advice for businesses, information on how to access Government supports and funding, the assistance available from Tourism NI and links to a series of practical webinars and advice guides in key areas such as business continuity, cashflow and employment law.

Businesses seeking further advice can also refer to Tourism NI’s Covid-19 Business Support Helpline on 02895 925313. Tourism NI’s team of specialist advisers will signpost to more information on the financial support packages available, as well as contracts and employment law, cash-flow management, booking terms and conditions and advice for accommodation providers.


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