ECONOMY Minister Diane Dodds has launched a £4.1 million scheme to support tourist accommodation businesses severely impacted through reduced income due to Covid- 19.
The Bed and Breakfast, Guest House and Guest Accommodation Scheme – which opens on January 28 - will support around 900 providers to continue to deliver much needed tourist accommodation in 2021 and beyond.
The Minister 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.
“I believe 2021 will be a much better year and, therefore, it is important that this support is in place to enable accommodation providers can be fully prepared.”
The scheme, which will be administered by Tourism NI, will provide grant to support eligible businesses on a flat per room amount plus a percentage of 2019’s turnover. The inclusion of turnover gives some recognition to business performance. The maximum grant any one business can receive will be capped at £12,500.
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.”
Tourist accommodation providers meeting the following criteria will be eligible for the Bed and Breakfast, Guest House and Guest Accommodation Scheme:
* the tourism accommodation provider must be compliant with the Tourism (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 and have received certification from Tourism NI;
* the accommodation was certified by Tourism NI and operational on or before 23 March 2020;
* the accommodation has an active listing on the Tourism NI consumer website www.discovernorthernireland.com as at 1 April 2020;
* the accommodation adheres to the various regulations applicable to tourism accommodation including but not limited to the following – fire safety regulations, liquor licensing laws, package holiday regulation and food hygiene etc;
* the accommodation is fully tax compliant (registered with HMRC and all relevant tax filing with HMRC are up to date) on the date of application;
* the tourist accommodation provider was viable prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and has taken all reasonable steps to safeguard the viability of the business.
Support received under previous grant schemes will be considered in calculating the level of grant under this scheme. For example, a business which received the £10k Small Business Support Grant would only be able to access £2,500 under the Tourism NI Scheme. Businesses that received funding as part of the £25k Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Scheme will be excluded from the Tourism NI scheme.
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.