Vaccine success of UK and US creates timing issue for tourism officials

What happens when North is ready to welcome visitors again, months ahead of State?

Temple Bar at night. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

Temple Bar at night. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

 

The vaccine rollout success of the United States and United Kingdom put the State’s tourism authorities in a bit of a quandary regarding how and when to reopen to foreign visitors.

The UK is streets ahead in terms of its rollout compared with the Republic. More than 22 million British people have received at least their first dose, or about a third of the population. This is four times the proportion of the population vaccinated here. Meanwhile in the US, President Joe Biden has promised that there will be enough vaccines for every American by the end of May.

The US and the UK were Ireland’s largest pre-pandemic tourism source markets. British visitors accounted for almost 40 per cent of all tourists arriving here before the virus upended the sector, while Americans were one in five.

If 60 per cent of Ireland’s inbound tourism market is mostly vaccinated by the time summer rolls around, the pressure will rise on tourism authorities here to allow some of them to visit Ireland, if there is demand. That demand would remain completely absent, however, if those tourists were to face any kind of border restrictions upon entry.

Quarantine restrictions

This could put State tourism officials at odds with State public health officials. Just as our biggest tourism source markets start talking about how and when to reopen their economies, including for foreign travel, Ireland is tightening up this State’s travel quarantine restrictions.

Tourism Ireland, the all-island State promotion agency, had wanted to, as it saw it, “push the green button” with an ad campaign promoting Irish tourism late this spring. That campaign has been put off indefinitely sue to the devastating third wave of the virus here.

Initially, that suited both jurisdictions on this island. But what happens when Northern Ireland, due to its superior vaccine rollout, is ready to welcome visitors once again, months ahead of the Republic? It will want that fact promoted by Tourism Ireland, which markets both the Republic and Northern Ireland abroad.

Will Tourism Ireland continue to hold off on the campaign to satisfy public health concerns in the South? Or will it, for the first time, run a partitionist campaign?

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