Aer Lingus cut-price promotion shows travel industry’s desperation

Airline offers US tourists package including flights and stay at Ashford Castle for €1,067

Hotels may have opened up but the short-term outlook for Ireland's tourism industry and for airlines remains uncertain at best.

Hoteliers were being resolutely upbeat and hopeful this week as they were finally able to open their doors again for what they fervently hope will be the final reopening for a long time.

But international travel is not scheduled to kick in again until mid-July and, even then, restrictions on social distancing and numbers are likely to make for a very edgy experience. The EU Covid passport will be a constant reminder that the 2021 season remains a far distance from normality.

Many people have already written off 2021, settling instead for holidays closer to home.

For those who doubt how desperate the travel industry is right now, a new promotion from Aer Lingus highlights the very changed market to which Ireland's hospitality sector is having to adjust.

In the same week that the airline announced that it wants to freeze workers' pay for five years and is proposing sharp cuts in rates paid to new cabin and ground crew, it is offering passengers a return trip to Ireland from New York, Boston or Chicago for $1,299 (€1,067).

It's a competitive deal for the flights alone but the package also includes, taxes and fees, car hire for the week and the traveller's choice of B&Bs throughout Ireland. As if that's not enough, there's a night in a five-star Wicklow resort with breakfast and, to cap it all, a night in the luxurious Ashford Castle on Lough Corrib at Cong, again with breakfast.

Not that long ago, in those halcyon pre-Covid days when Ireland was notching up successive records in tourist numbers, American visitors would scarcely get the night's stay with breakfast for that money in the Mayo hotel regularly cited as the best in Ireland.

True, the offer is timed for the winter months – between November this year and February 2022 – but it is clear evidence that the airline (and Ireland’s hotels and B&Bs) are not taking the return of the high-spending US tourist for granted. Changed times indeed.