Hospitality Ulster has today launched a policy paper calling on the UK Government and NI Executive to recognise the unique circumstances faced by the hospitality industry in Northern Ireland by Brexit and introduce measures to support and protect the sector.
The hospitality sector is worth more than £1.1 billion to the NI economy annually and is a key area for long-term economic growth for Northern Ireland. Given Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances, Hospitality Ulster is calling for government to:
- Maintain the Common Travel Area between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and make no changes to the rights of Republic of Ireland citizens to work in NI.
- Maintain the free movement of people, goods and services between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
- Ensure no additional tariffs or red-tape for imported goods, especially those produced in the Republic of Ireland and ensure mutual recognition of qualifications to facilitate access to labour.
- Establish an Executive sub-committee on Brexit chaired by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to agree a negotiating position and to ensure focus and direction at the highest level of government in Northern Ireland.
- Honour funding commitments for structural and investment projects signed after the Autumn Statement.
- Provide greater financial support to promote NI tourism in other UK regions, the Republic of Ireland and abroad.
- Introduction of regional tourism VAT system.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, said:
“The hospitality industry is worth more than £1.1 billion annually to the Northern Ireland economy and it is essential that the sector is supported by government so that it continue to create jobs and add to the overall economic health of the region.
“Tourism is working in Northern Ireland. In 2015 we had 4.5 million overnight trips by visitors, a 4 percent annual increase. In 2016 more than 2 million hotel nights were sold and currently the hospitality sector employs one in every 20 workers in Northern Ireland. These key statistics underline the importance of protecting the hospitality sector.
“Northern Ireland is unique among the UK regions in that we share a land border with an EU state, the Republic of Ireland. It is essential that post-Brexit any border is kept as frictionless as possible.
“In 2015 alone visitors from the Republic of Ireland spent £61 million and the latest figures available from January to September showed a 27% rise. Clearly government, both in NI and Westminster, are duty bound not to place any restrictions on such a valuable source of trade.
“It is also essential that the dynamics of the hospitality sector are understood. Currently one in five people employed in the industry are migrant workers and it is vital that the ability to recruit external labour is maintained. It is essential for Northern Ireland as a whole that the hospitality industry can grow and access to foreign labour is fundamental to that growth.
“We need a joined-up approach from government both in Westminster and at the Executive to fully support our industry and protect it from the challenges posed by Brexit.
“Given that the tourism VAT rate is substantially less in the Republic of Ireland, tourists can save money by staying overnight in the Republic and taking just day-trips to Northern Ireland. This situation needs addressed and we are calling for the introduction of a regional VAT rate.’’
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