The head of Tourism Ireland has voiced optimism about a return of tourists from the second half of 2021.
Chief executive Niall Gibbons believes the rollout of Covid vaccinations in the UK and Ireland will be completed by September.
Speaking on the FlightDeck programme on Travel.Radio, he said: “Hope is on the horizon in 2021. I’m delighted to see the speed of vaccine rollout in the UK and Ireland and we’re reasonably confident that the entire population will be vaccinated by September.
“Once we get to a critical mass of 60% or 70%, once the elderly and those more at risk are looked after, I think you’re likely to see a sort of re-opening emerging.
“From a tourism perspective in any meaningful way it’s probably going to be Q3 in 2021. I’d love to say it’s going to be sooner. We are preparing for a significant relaunch in the later half of this year.”
Gibbons added: “There is a huge pent-up demand to travel. The huge difference between now and the global financial crisis 10 years ago is that people are actually saving at a much faster rate, as governments have taken on greater responsibility.
“One thing that people will be keen to do is take a holiday. Our job is to make sure we are well-positioned for that and I think the second half of 2021 will see a strong rebound.”
Asked whether Brexit would have a major impact on tourism to Ireland, he said: “We have the Common Travel Area which was never in doubt during the Brexit process and that enables easier access to Ireland.
“It’s going to be more complicated for British tourists to go to mainland Europe in terms of the questions you may be asked; you won’t be able to queue in the EU queue so you won’t have as fast access so to speak, but there’s no statutory requirement for a passport to go to Ireland, unless your airline demands it. So you can travel around the island of Ireland as you did before with no hassle whatsoever.
“In a post-Covid world, people will be looking for hassle-free holidays.
“Our research is telling us that people want to go back to destinations with which they are familiar; they want to go back to visit friends and family and they also want to go to places that are closer to home as opposed to long-haul.”