The Irish Times view on international travel: haphazard and slow

The Irish travel industry – from multi-billion euro airlines to tiny tourist operations – is in a crisis of unimaginable scale

The Irish travel industry – from multi-billion euro airlines to tiny tourist operations – is in a crisis of unimaginable scale and with one voice, it has been calling for help and clarity. Photograph: Leon Farrell / RollingNews.ie

The Irish travel industry – from multi-billion euro airlines to tiny tourist operations – is in a crisis of unimaginable scale and with one voice, it has been calling for help and clarity. Photograph: Leon Farrell / RollingNews.ie

 

Travel to and from Ireland is worth billions of euro each year, which makes the haphazard and agonisingly slow approach the Government has taken to mapping out a clear route for the sector’s future both mystifying and hugely damaging. Since March, Ireland has imposed some of the most restrictive travel rules in Europe. Yet the incidence rate of Covid-19 here is worse now than Italy, Germany, Sweden, Greece and Portugal, all countries with a more relaxed attitude to international travel. Despite promises about air bridges and airport screening, there has been little movement. Detailed European Commission recommendations in May and subsequent proposals from the Government’s Aviation Recovery Taskforce have been largely shelved, leaving us as cut off now as we have been since the start of the crisis.

As of last week there are no countries on the green list of places where people can travel without having to restrict their movements upon their return, while even the steps taken to police travellers’ adherence to those restriction appear piecemeal and impossible to enforce. The Irish travel industry – from multi-billion euro airlines to tiny tourist operations – is in a crisis of unimaginable scale and with one voice, it has been calling for help and clarity.

At least there is a plan on the horizon now that the Government has committed to EU-wide rules for a traffic-light system aimed at opening our skies. Using data from the European Centre for Disease Control, only people travelling from red zones will have to restrict their movements on arrival if they cannot produce a pre-travel negative Covid-19 test. But more is needed. There should be rapid testing in airports – evidence has shown it significantly reduces the spread of the illness. The DAA, which manages both Dublin and Cork airports, says it can roll out testing within days, delivering as many as 15,000 screenings daily, but any such system needs State assistance. The travel sector more broadly needs additional support. If it is not forthcoming, Ireland risks being cut even further adrift from the rest of the world.

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