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Coronavirus: Ireland could stay closed to Britons until later in the summer

Exclusive: Tourism ‘recovery story’ not expected till autumn

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 07 May 2020 16:01 BST
Dublin may be off limits to visitors
Dublin may be off limits to visitors (Getty/iStock)

International tourism to Ireland is not expected to resume at scale until September, The Independent has learnt.

The chief executive of Tourism Ireland, Niall Gibbons, said that the Irish government’s road map for lifting coronavirus restrictions “gives us a pathway to the restoration of tourism”.

But he said that it would take until the autumn “before we see the recovery story happening for tourism in Ireland this year”.

The government in Dublin plans a restart of domestic tourism in the republic on 20 July, with the reopening of campsites, hostels and hotels – though not hotel bars. Travel to Ireland’s offshore islands will not be permitted for tourism until 10 August.

But the road map gives no indication of when visitors from Britain and other countries will be allowed to arrive as tourists.

At present arrivals from overseas, including Irish residents, are instructed to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. They must provide the address of where they will self-isolate for the following two weeks, with spot checks by phone to verify compliance.

Mr Gibbons told The Independent: “Safety is paramount and in that context the 14-day quarantine will be continuously evaluated.

“The biggest disappointment would be if we had a recurrence, a reinfection during the recovery period. That would be a big blow to confidence.

“So I think it’s a very measured road map: it really gives people the confidence that we’re rebuilding slowly but surely and getting tourism back.

“Between July and August we’ll see a restoration of local, regional and some national business, and perhaps the start of some international services. I think Great Britain will probably be the quickest to return for us.

“As soon as the road map was published, businesses started seeing an increase in bookings for the latter part of 2020 and into 2021, which is very encouraging.”

Last year the island of Ireland received 11.2 million overseas visitors, generating revenue of €5.8bn (£5.1bn) – representing £750 for everyone in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The operator of Bewley’s Cafe in Dublin, at the heart of the tourism trail in the Irish capital, has announced it will not reopen the historic location on Grafton Street due to heavy losses.

Even though cafes should be allowed to open in Ireland from 29 June, the restrictions on numbers make its future financially unviable.

At present citizens of the republic can return from Northern Ireland without going into two weeks of self-isolation.

Flights are continuing between key Irish cities and the UK on Ryanair and Aer Lingus, but only for essential journeys.

It is conceivable that, for a time in the summer, there could be a “tourism border” in the Irish Sea, with holidaymakers able to travel freely in the island of Ireland but tourists from Great Britain still excluded.

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