£4 million to support guesthouses during pandemic

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By Michael McHugh, PA

A £4.1 million fund will support guesthouses during the pandemic, Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister Diane Dodds said.

It will help around 900 businesses which have struggled badly with the restrictions this year and beyond.

The scheme, administered by Tourism NI, will provide grants to eligible businesses on a flat per room amount plus a percentage of 2019’s turnover.

The maximum any of the hospitality companies can receive will be capped at £12,500.

Mrs Dodds said: “Bed and breakfasts, guest houses and guest accommodation hold a special place in Northern Ireland’s tourism industry.

“They represent an essential part of our unique selling point across the globe.

“The funding this scheme provides will help our tourist accommodation providers in a number of important ways.

“It will help with the cost of re-opening or keeping a business operational.

“It can be put towards adapting physical areas of the business and service processes.

“Alternatively, it can be used for marketing or financial planning.”

The inclusion of turnover gives some recognition to business performance.

Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said: “Many of our successful B&B, guest house and guest accommodation businesses now find themselves in a vulnerable position resulting from a loss in revenue and a sharp decline in consumer demand, with uncertainty over when demand levels will return.

“Moreover, core markets are set to change in the short-to-medium term and businesses will need to adapt to appeal to closer-to-home markets but lack the cash flow to invest in recovery planning.

“This scheme will be critical to allow B&Bs, guest houses and guest accommodation to position themselves strongly for what will be a very competitive marketplace over the next three-year period.”

Eligible businesses will be able to apply online through the Tourism NI Flexigrant system.

The grant will be paid by electronic transfer to the business bank account detailed on the application form.

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