Holiday at Home Voucher Scheme

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 6 December 2021.

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Photo of Pam Cameron Pam Cameron DUP 2:30, 6 December 2021

T7. Mrs Cameron asked the Minister for the Economy for an update on the preparations for the holiday at home voucher scheme. (AQT 1867/17-22)

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

Unfortunately, the holiday at home voucher scheme will now not proceed. I had looked forward to being able to bring that scheme through because I recognise the difficult time that hotels, and the hospitality industry more generally, have had over the past number of months.

I brought the scheme to my Department. It considered the business case, but it was unable to confirm that it offered value for money. However, as it would give a much-needed boost and combine private and public-sector money, I believed that it was worth considering. Therefore, I issued a ministerial direction to my departmental accounting officer, which required the matter to be taken to the Executive or the Minister of Finance. Neither the Executive nor the Department of Finance was willing to approve the scheme. Therefore, unfortunately, it is unable to be progressed.

Photo of Pam Cameron Pam Cameron DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer, although it was very disappointing. What more can be done by the Minister's Department to ensure that support goes to smaller businesses in the tourism industry, such as B&Bs, now that the scheme will not go ahead?

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

That is exactly why I wanted to bring in the scheme. I knew that it would create a significant economic boost. We are seeing the huge impact that the £100 cards in the high street scheme are having on our high streets. The holiday at home voucher scheme would have been a little bit different. It would have been open to everyone, but would have required public financing, as well as people using their money. That would have been a really good way to boost the economy and keep the hospitality sector and hotels, in particular, going during the really difficult months of January, February and March.

I have, however, managed to secure an additional £6·5 million of funding in order to enable Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland to undertake significant additional marketing to promote our tourism offer in Great Britain and internationally during the remainder of the financial year. I hope that, to some extent, that will help those businesses that are struggling in that way.

It has been estimated that around £1·6 million of the high street scheme expenditure has been on accommodation providers and tourist attractions, so I hope that, in some way, it has given that little bit of support. However, I am very disappointed that I was not able to secure support for what could have been beneficial measures during a really difficult time.