Irish economy will not survive on ‘essential travel’ only

Living with Covid-19 must include international travel, according to an Irish government task force.

The Task Force on Aviation Recovery’s report warns: “Our economy will not survive on the basis of a blanket policy of ‘essential travel’ only.”

The Dublin government is advising to the public to avoid all non-essential overseas travel until July 20, when it will review the situation.

Irish authorities require anyone coming into the Republic of Ireland, apart from those from Northern Ireland, to self-isolate for 14 days.

Ireland’s prime minister  Micheal Martin said on Sunday that he hoped the government would publish a ‘green list’ on July 20 that would indicate which countries could be safe for travellers, with a lower risk of the virus spreading.

But he added that the government remained very “cautious” about international travel.

“We have issues with the UK, in terms of Leicester where it closed down recently,” he told the BBC.

“It’s not just the UK; it’s international travel in general. Our current advice is against international travel off the island of Ireland because we believe it’s problematic and our public health people are saying that to us.”

But domestic tourism alone will not be enough to support Ireland’s hospitality businesses, the task force warns.

Irish holidaymakers spent around €3.3 billion in the country in 2018, while overseas visitors contributed an estimated €8.7 billion, the report points out.

“Much of our key business and services sectors – including high technology, software, pharmaceutical, medical, finance, food and beverage – cannot survive indefinitely with zoom-like calls,” the task force argues.

It adds that face-to-face meetings are needed to expand markets, for sales, raising cash and mergers and acquisitions.

“Business is rarely done between companies, but rather between the people in those companies,” it says. “Brexit requires that new markets are urgently nurtured and developed, and virtual meetings are not particularly effective when building new business relationships.”

A temporary wage subsidy scheme be extended for aviation workers until June 2021, the report recommends. Around 140,000 jobs depend directly and indirectly on aviation in the country.

“Keeping people in jobs and keeping companies ‘business ready’ means that they will be ready to better respond to market opportunities when they emerge,” the report says.

The government in Ireland must keep full transparency on the green list of countries that it intends maintaining as it eases travel restrictions.

Irish Travel Agents Association chief executive Pat Dawson said: “While much ITAA business relates to outbound corporate and leisure travel, the nature of the aviation sector means that the outbound and inbound sectors are inherently linked.

“The ITAA passionately supports the promotion of aviation and regional airports to save Ireland’s tourism sector and by extension, its economy.”

ITAA president Michael Doorley added: “Travel agents, as the vital element in outbound travel, will do our utmost to contribute to promoting foreign travel; our role in promoting outbound travel compliments the efforts of others to promote inward travel and both our efforts help airlines to continue services to all our airports.”

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