The Irish Government has today launched its five-stage ‘Living With Covid’ plan and tomorrow is expected to release a long-overdue revision of its Green List for overseas travel that will probably include countries where the 14-day cumulative rate of Covid-19 cases is below 25 per 100,000. This is a criterion to be adopted for the EU traffic light system for flights – red, orange, green, and grey – that Ireland is expected to take part in once it has been agreed at EU level. The Taoiseach has said that the Government has decided to support the European Commission proposals on travel.
(Meanwhile, for ‘red’ EU countries and other ‘hotspot’ countries outside of the EU, passengers intending to travel to Ireland will have to be tested before boarding a flight.)
Currently, the 25 cases per 100,000 rule would mean a Green List of 13 European countries: Germany, Sweden, Poland, Bulgaria, Greece, Norway, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, Iceland, Cyprus, Latvia, and Lichtenstein. However, another four EU countries currently have 14-day rates lower than Ireland’s 45.4: Slovakia 30.4, Italy 32.4, and Slovenia 40.2, and Denmark 43.3.
For the Green List to make any sense at all, the Government will also need to drop its overall ‘no non-essential travel’ recommendation.
ITAA Calls for Support
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has called on the Government to provide supports for travel agents who are struggling as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The ITAA has consistently voiced its concerns regarding the impact that the Covid-19 crisis is having on travel agents throughout the country, and is calling for assistance from Government in the form of measures such as wage subsidies and grants to help repair some of the damage to Irish travel businesses in the wake of the pandemic.
The Association has commended a representative group of licensed and bonded travel agents for handing in a petition to the Dáil, as this demonstrates the concerns of travel agents and consumers alike regarding the future of Irish travel. This initiative was developed by travel agents themselves in order to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by the sector since the arrival of Covid-19 in Ireland.
The ITAA has been working behind the scenes since March, meeting with various Government Departments to address the issues faced by the travel industry and to protect the rights of consumers. The ITAA is meeting with Government to have constructive discussions about the future of the travel sector, to ensure that the industry will be revived and open for business when consumer confidence returns. The Association is also aware that the Government is looking at amending current travel restrictions and extending the Green List, which it says “will be a positive step towards rebuilding consumer confidence”.
Pat Dawson, ITAA Chief Executive, said: “The travel industry has been forced into lockdown for an indefinite period of time due to the outbreak of Covid-19. We want to work with Government to save lives and keep our families, our staff, our clients and our communities safe, but we also need to preserve our businesses so that we can resume operations when it is safe to do so. We are hopeful that with Government assistance, we will be able to save the 3,500 jobs that are currently at risk in the Irish travel industry. These businesses were viable before the pandemic and I have no doubt that they will continue to be viable after the threat of Covid-19 has passed.
“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 are calling on the Government to make a clear decision on the current guidelines so that we can begin to rebuild our industry. 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 need support from Government to protect our customers and our businesses.”
The Irish travel sector has been drastically impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic; since March 2020 the industry is down by 95%. Domestic tourism accounts for 30% of the overall tourism spend in Ireland, meaning that the industry relies on incoming tourists for 70% of its revenue. There is a symbiotic relationship between inbound and outbound travel, therefore opening up air travel would impact massively on the Irish tourism industry. There are currently 250,000 jobs at risk in the tourism sector, which is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry.