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Irish tourists warned over travel in Catalonia

Irish Travel Agents Association urges travellers to be careful amid crisis in the region

The Irish Travel Agents Association has urged Irish tourists to exercise caution when travelling in Catalonia. File photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has urged Irish tourists to exercise caution when travelling in Catalonia, following Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s decision to impose direct rule on the region.

Almost two million Irish tourists visit Spain each year, with up to 300,000 of them going to Catalonia.

During the peak holiday season in the summer, there are estimated to be up to 3,000 Irish tourists in Barcelona on any given day.

Mr Rajoy’s move to remove Catalonia’s leaders from power and impose direct rule came after the region’s declaration of independence from Spain last week.

An election has been called for the region for December 21st.

Cormac Meehan, president of the ITAA, said: “Further demonstrations are likely to take place in Barcelona and other areas of the Catalonia region. We are advising all tourists in the area to exercise caution — avoid all demonstrations, monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities and your travel agent or tour operator. Demonstrations may also cause some disruption and delays to transport services.

“The ITAA is working with its members and affiliate partners across Ireland to support holidaymakers travelling to the region. The Catalans want to keep their tourism industry open and we are confident that the area will remain safe for Irish people.

“This is one of the most popular and beautiful areas of the Iberian Peninsula and must remain both open and accessible to the international tourist community.”

Mr Meehan will travel to the region on Tuesday with ITAA chief executive Pat Dawson to attend a travel industry summit. They will also meet local tourism authorities and operators.

Popular destination

Catalonia has proven to be very popular with Irish tourists in recent years. The family-oriented holiday resort of Salou and the adventure and water park PortAventura are both in the area.

Barcelona is also one of the major hubs for the Mediterranean cruise business, with many tourists flying to the area to board cruises there.

There are three main airports used to travel to Barcelona: Barcelona-El Prat Airport, Girona Airport and Reus Airport.

Other Spanish regions popular with Irish tourists, such as Malaga, the Costa del Sol and Madrid, are not expected to be impacted by the Spanish government’s action in Catalonia.