The warning to NI’s Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Simon Hamilton MLA came from representatives of NI’s hospitality sector who voiced their concerns for the future of thousands of local businesses and the livelihoods of thousands of people across NI at a private meeting facilitated by Pubs of Ulster at Parliament Buildings in Belfast.
The move comes as Pubs of Ulster revealed that pubs, restaurants and hotels are suffering as a result of the flag protests, with people not going out and visitors opting to avoid towns and cities there. As a result, trade has dropped by an average of 30% and in some cases by as much as 55% over recent weeks. In real terms, this means that the industry is currently suffering a dramatic drop in turnover, with one publican alone reporting a loss of £95,000 before Christmas and £60,000 after the Christmas period. Another local publican reports a 54% fall in trade last week alone. Representatives fear that the situation is showing no signs of improvement.
“I welcome the opportunity to meet with representatives of the hospitality sector to hear their concerns about the effect the current situation is having on their business,” commented Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, “I share their frustration and that of the wider business community when I hear trade is suffering as a result.
“The hospitality industry has a very important role to play in giving Belfast the kind of ‘buzz’ and atmosphere that saw the city being voted one of the world’s top destinations for 2012 by the National Geographic Traveller magazine. We spent a lot of time last year building up the image of Northern Ireland,” she added.
Pubs of Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill said, “Our figures speak for themselves and it’s clear that businesses cannot operate for very long in these conditions. Pubs, restaurants and hotels all rely on people leaving their homes, so if people don’t go out, we lose out. Whilst we obviously need a political solution to the situation, we are now at a point where something has to be done and action needs to be taken to help the struggling evening economy”.