Prospects Are Improving
By Deaglán de Bréadún
Tourism is an important element of the Irish economy and it has suffered greatly because of the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. A whole raft of conditions has been applied to inward travel.
Outward travel has also been restricted and Irish people’s passion for heading off to Spain, Portugal, and other sunny destinations for a break has been curbed, not to mention their desire to visit the USA to meet up with Irish-American relatives and sample the excitement of New York and Boston, the imposing sights in Washington D.C. and/or the delights of a beach holiday in Florida.
But it now appears that tourism may be gradually making its way back, starting with a “travel bubble” between Ireland and Britain in the near future. A body called the Recovery Oversight Group for Tourism, headed by Nóirín Hegarty, a former newspaper editor who is now a senior executive with the travel-guide publishers Lonely Planet, has prepared a report urging the Irish Government to issue a plan by the end of this month for the easing of restrictions on inward travel to Ireland so that the tourist industry can once again provide hospitality to holidaymakers from abroad.
Ireland’s Minister for Tourism, Catherine Martin, is expected to present the report for discussion to her Government colleagues very shortly. The document specifically calls for the lifting, in the coming weeks, of curbs on visitors to and from Great Britain.
The Government in London has already decided to remove the ban on non-essential travel between Britain and Northern Ireland from May 17th, which means that tourists from Britain can travel to Belfast or some other Northern Ireland location and then cross the border into the Republic.
It is hoped that unobstructed travel between the Republic of Ireland and mainland Britain will resume by the end of this month or, at the latest, the middle of June. However, it is not yet clear if tourists from, say, the United States would be allowed to go directly from Britain to the Republic of Ireland under the terms of the proposed “travel bubble.”
The United Kingdom has left the European Union but the remaining EU member states are considering the terms and conditions of a European Digital Green Certificate to facilitate international travel during the pandemic. Citizens of member-states would be allowed to travel freely within the EU provided they have a certificate that gives proof of vaccination, a negative test result, or immunity after recent recovery from a COVID-19 infection.
It is expected that the Irish Government will discuss and may even decide to approve participation in the Digital Green Certificate scheme next week. It would mean that Irish citizens could be traveling to Spain, Portugal, France, and other EU countries by mid-summer.
Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, recently told the Ireland AM TV show on the Virgin Media One channel that the scheme was currently being negotiated by EU officials and was likely to be in operation by June, although he cautioned: “I wouldn’t be booking something yet that’s non-refundable.”
The Recovery Oversight Group for Tourism is also urging that the Irish Government should establish a second documentation procedure, similar to the European Digital Green Certificate so that tourists from the US and other countries besides Britain and the EU member-states could enter the of Republic of Ireland.
As for those traveling from Ireland to the U.S., the website of the Embassy in Dublin declares that “all airline passengers to the United States aged two years and older must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel. Alternatively, travelers to the United States may provide documentation from a licensed healthcare provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel.”
Currently, all passengers arriving in Ireland are required to have a negative/‘not detected’ result from a pre-departure COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours prior to arrival. Children aged six and under are exempt.
There is also currently a legal requirement to home quarantine for 14 days applied to passengers arriving in Ireland. A test can be taken on day five of quarantine and if written proof of a negative result is received, then the quarantine period is permitted to end.
Additional requirements have been agreed upon regarding a number of countries and territories designated as ‘Category 2’. The complete list of 61 countries and territories as of 4:00 am local time on May 12th ranges from Andorra to Zimbabwe and includes the United States of America.
Any passenger who has been in a ‘Category 2’ country in the previous 14 days is legally required to undertake Mandatory Hotel Quarantine. This doesn’t apply to passengers who are fully vaccinated and have the documents to prove it. The period of quarantine is 14 days, beginning on the day of admission to the hotel. However, the law provides that this period of quarantine will end early, on receipt of a negative (‘not detected’) result following a test taken on day 10 of quarantine.
Strange times indeed, but the outlook is improving and a gradual easing of restrictions seems to be in prospect over the summer.
Ireland will be ready — when the time is right. Visit Ireland.com to start planning your next visit to Ireland.
Deaglán de Bréadún is a freelance journalist and author based in Dublin. He is a columnist with The Irish News and his books include ‘The Far Side of Revenge: Making Peace in Northern Ireland’ and ‘Power Play: The Rise of Modern Sinn Féin’ as well as three books in Irish. His reporting on the Good Friday Agreement negotiations and their aftermath for The Irish Times won the Northern Ireland IPR/BT award for Daily News Journalist of the Year. Deaglán may be reached at Ddebre1@aol.com