The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has welcomed the decision from Government to require a negative COVID-19 test from all travellers into Ireland, and is calling for a consistent and uniform approach to pre-flight testing across Europe. The new rules will require anyone flying into Ireland to produce a negative PCR test result received within three days before arrival, in order to control the rising numbers of coronavirus cases in Ireland.
The Association believe that this type of testing will help to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus and work towards re-establishing global air connectivity after a difficult year for the travel industry. However, the ITAA has emphasised the need for standardisation of testing regulations across Europe, based on decisions made by the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC).
The ITAA believes that as well as reopening borders within the EU, testing will help to rebuild consumer confidence in travel. The Association supports COVID-19 testing before travelling, as this will ensure a “clean” environment throughout the travel process.
While this type of COVID-19 testing is unlikely to become a permanent fixture in the air travel experience, the ITAA believes that it is a necessary measure to re-establish air travel. COVID-19 testing has progressed rapidly since March; the ITAA believes that the use of quick, accurate, easy to use and affordable testing measures could be an interim solution and have a positive effect on air travel in the coming weeks and months.
ITAA CEO Pat Dawson stated, “First and foremost, the safety and comfort of our customers is paramount to all ITAA member travel agents. Some countries have already introduced pre-flight testing, and as our numbers escalate, it is important that we do the same for all arrivals into Ireland. It is essential that a global standard is developed and maintained for these tests so that all relevant parties can adhere to testing protocols.”
He continued, “the current travel restrictions provide no relief to either inbound or outbound travel, which will have a knock on effect on the Irish travel industry well into the future. We expect that there would be certain challenges involved in integrating these kinds of tests into the travel process; however we believe that this method is worth implementing in order to restore consumer confidence in international travel. Irish people love to travel; as soon as it is declared safe to travel again we believe that consumer confidence will be restored. Until that happens, we must look into alternative measures to ensure that passengers have a safe and comfortable journey.”
Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, CEO of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), struck a more bullish note but echoed the call for an affordable, standardised testing procedure: “This is another devastating blow for the inbound tourism industry. Although no one wants or expects international visitors today or tomorrow we have to think of the summer season when a vibrant tourism industry is vital to hundreds of thousands of jobs. This is a key booking period for the summer season and we have to make sure we get the international travel issue right so that we don’t put a ‘closed indefinitely’ sign above the country. We are an island nation and connectivity is crucial not just for tourism but also for FDI and the wider economy. ITIC has always been in favour of a comprehensive testing policy but it needs to be scaleable, rapid and better value than the PCR test that the Government is proposing and the antigen tests that are used effectively elsewhere in Europe including Germany and Austria should be considered”.