All three businesses have availed of the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) through Danske Bank to enable them to stay afloat while they are closed to customers because of the pandemic.

The businesses in Belfast, Portaferry and Bangor are individual limited companies owned by common shareholders.

One of the companies’ directors, Kieran Quinn, said: “The timing of the shutdown couldn’t have been worse for us and other tourism related businesses. We were coming out of low season and getting ready for the big boom that usually starts at Easter and runs through the summer. We had just made an investment in Exploris to open new attractions.

“This loan will help us keep afloat but we’re hoping we won’t be closed for too long. When lockdown is lifted we are ready for business, so I’d really encourage people to get out and support local tourism businesses when it is safe to do so. The economy depends on people spending.”

Mr Quinn said the industry is hoping to benefit from staycation effect in some locations but is also keen to receive government guidance on the resumption of international travel and the social distancing rules that will apply in coming months.

He notes that as well as tourist visitors, venues like Crumlin Road Gaol also rely on events like weddings and concerts. While many events have been rescheduled until later in the year, it will be hard for businesses in the sector to open if social distancing rules means they can’t get enough customers through the doors to cover their costs.

Mr Quinn said he hopes other tourism-related businesses will consider the CBILS scheme.

“I would say don’t be afraid to do it, everyone is in the same boat at the moment. Obviously it is a loan that has to be paid back but I would say that you are better looking at it than for it, or waiting to see if the scheme is improved further. Danske Bank were very helpful to us, we presented a plan and they responded very quickly.”

Ellen Matthews, Business Banking Manager at Danske Bank said: “Businesses in the tourism industry would normally be hitting their stride at this time of year but instead find themselves closed due to coronavirus. We were glad to be able to quickly provide vital support these three well-known local tourist attractions through the CBILS scheme and we look forward to seeing them re-open soon.”