Taskforce to support Mid and East Antrim’s hospitality sector

Mid and East Antrim is to step up support for the borough’s hospitality sector with the appointment of a taskforce chair to oversee the “critical next year”.

Councillor Andrew Wilson.

The move to phase two of recovery by the borough’s hospitality and tourism recovery task force was proposed at a meeting of council on Monday night by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Andrew Wilson.

In a statement after the meeting, Cllr Wilson said: “We as a council need to support the proactive work of our hospitality and tourism sectors within Mid and East Antrim Borough.

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“On recent visits around the borough, we have learnt first hand that our local businesses have not been idle during lockdown.

“They have invested heavily in facility upgrades, PPE and even temperature scanners. The risks hopefully will pay off and consumer confidence will grow.

“Anything we can do to support these sectors by ways of a medium term strategy is to be welcomed.”

Cllr Wilson said the appointment of a specialist taskforce chair will be for an initial 12-month period during what he described as “a critical time”.

The Mid and East Antrim Hospitality and Tourism Recovery Taskforce Group was set up by the council’s chief executive in April in response to the Covid pandemic.

It includes representatives from hotels, Hotels’ Federation, Hospitality Ulster, Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland.

Members have been working together to deliver an action plan and have been focused on reopening the industry safely following lockdown. More than 200 employees have been enrolled onto fully funded re-skilling programmes.

Phase two will focus on delivering a five-year integrated tourism strategy for Mid and East Antrim.

The appointment of the tourism specialist chair will cost approximately £12,000 per year.

Larne Lough DUP Cllr Gregg McKeen said: “We as a council need to give the industry any support we can.”

Ulster Unionist Cllr Maureen Morrow said: “Having lost most of the summer season, it is very important to provide support and guidance to them to make the season last longer, through to Christmas. I am very supportive of this initiative.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.

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