Economy Minister Diane Dodds hailed the re-opening of the sector as a hugely positive step forward as she undertook a programme of visits around Northern Ireland.
The Minister visited the Seagoe Hotel and Head O the Road pub in Portadown, followed by the Boathouse Restaurant and Gateway Visitor Centre in Antrim, and on to Hillsborough Castle. The Minister also visited the Titanic Hotel Belfast earlier this week to view its preparations for re-opening.
Highlighting the re-opening, the Minister said: “Today is a great day for our tourism and hospitality sector. Businesses in this sector are a cornerstone of the Northern Ireland economy, employing around 65,000 people and generating in the region of £1billion in revenue each year.
“But these businesses also represent something more. They are the places people go to socialise, relax and enjoy themselves. We can so easily take this for granted but after it has not been available for three months, I believe people will be very pleased to once again have the opportunity to visit cafés, hotels, pubs, restaurants and visitor attractions.”
The Minister continued: “Northern Ireland is world-renowned for its tourism and hospitality offering. While this year we may not welcome as many outside visitors here as we normally would during the summer, I am confident that businesses in the sector will see a great many local customers in the coming weeks and months and will deliver the quality offering that they are so well known for.”
Guidance to help businesses in the visitor economy keep staff and customers safe has been published on the Tourism NI and nibusinessinfo websites.
Mrs Dodds added: “It remains vital that everyone – business owners, staff and customers – takes the appropriate precautions. The recent relaxation of social distancing rules by the Executive will have a direct positive impact on tourism and hospitality businesses and also on the people using them, but we must not be complacent.
“So, alongside social distancing, please remember to continue practising good hand and respiratory hygiene while using our hotels, cafés, pubs, restaurants and tourist attractions so that everyone can enjoy them safely.”