Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced plans to allow hotels and other tourist accommodation to reopen from July 20.

In a statement posted on Northern Ireland’s Depart for Economy website Dodds said:

“Covid-19 has presented an unprecedented challenge for our tourism industry, as it has for tourism markets around the world.

“I believe the time is right to provide the tourist accommodation sector with clarity about opening dates.

“I want to build upon the positive progress in managing the spread of the virus and begin to re-open our tourism industry in a safe and managed way.”

Guesthouses, B&Bs, hotels, and hostels will all be allowed to reopen from July 20. The Tourism Steering Group will work with the sector “to explore what facilities and amenities can safely be made available by hotels and recommendations will be brought to the Executive in due course”.

Other “self-contained” accommodation types including holiday and home parks, caravan sites and self-catering properties may be allowed to open earlier than the above date “depending on scientific advice”.

Dodds warned that the date was “conditional on the continued containment of the spread of Covid-19”, and warned that “Tourist accommodation will operate in a new, and challenging, world when it begins to emerge from Covid-19″.

“We need to enable businesses to plan ahead to ensure social distancing and hygiene practices are in place and staff are trained,” said Dodds.

“These practices will also be essential to reassure customers and employees that establishments are Covid-19 safe.

“Enabling accommodation businesses to generate essential revenue will help to protect individuals and livelihoods which support families and communities across Northern Ireland.”