Ireland’s tourism hotspots have reported a surge in booking demand this summer as vacationers seek alternatives to traveling abroad amid Covid fears.

Industry experts say it’s a misconception that Irish tourism will thrive because the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) advised people not to fly to overseas destinations for their vacations.

“In a normal year, 75 percent of tourism spending comes from international tourism to Ireland, and while some popular areas here do well during the school holidays, other areas like Dublin won’t,” said Irish Tourism Industry Association CEO Eoghan O’Mara Walsh.

In 2019, the tourism industry was worth EUR 9.2 billion, of which EUR 6.9 billion came from overseas tourists.

“We believe the ‘Staycation’ is probably the best hope for the Irish tourism business and one of the few positive outcomes of the Covid situation is that people are discovering our country, but the domestic market is not big enough to hold the country support 20,000 tourism and hospitality businesses, ”he said.

“We only hope that international travel can safely start again in the second half of the year, but public health comes first.

“Really, the Irish vacationing in Ireland will keep the popular places like coastal destinations busy in the short weeks of July and August. The Irish don’t vacation in Dublin so it was like a ghost town last year. And if games and concerts are canceled in the capital, it exacerbates the problem as the people who would have traveled to them from rural areas will not do so this year.

“The main way to improve it is to introduce vaccinations urgently and quickly. We are jealous of the UK and the vaccination rate they are vaccinating compared to us. “

Delphi Resort near Leenane in the scenic Connemara area of ​​Co Galway has reported a surge in bookings for the summer and expects demand to outpace demand for summer stays over the past year.

“People tell us they are not going to go abroad and try to book holidays in Ireland,” said reservations manager Jackie Lydon.

“Others had booked for Easter and now they are changing their bookings to summer because they believe we are still in some kind of lockdown or restriction at Easter,” she added. “We have actually postponed some people’s bookings four times since last year as people try to find a place where there are no restrictions.”

At the Fota Island Hotel and Spa in Cork, the resort’s general manager, John O’Flynn, has reported similar demand for July and August bookings.

“One thing that we noticed is that people in Ireland will be out and about. You could book four nights here and three in Kerry. They want to see a little more and keep the kids active. We have a lot of inquiries about activities for teenagers, ”he said.

“We also get a lot of inquiries about Golf HoliDays of people who normally travel to Spain or Portugal but cannot go abroad this year.

“In Fota we always have a busy season during the school holidays, but usually in September and October we see business from the US and UK but that just doesn’t happen this year. And the demand for large weddings and events has also fallen sharply.

“We can only hope that the vaccines will be rolled out and that 2022 will be a good year.”

Meanwhile, travel agencies that have been closed for almost a year due to Covid-19 restrictions have stated that some have closed for good and others are on the verge of doom due to ongoing lockdowns.

In an industry that is heavily regulated for consumer protection, if they go bankrupt, they cannot act. This responsibility proves too burdensome for some as the latest restrictions apply.

They spoke after tension between Nphet and Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary earlier this week when chief medical officer Tony Holohan advised people not to fly to overseas destinations for their summer vacation.

“People are still calling us to look for bookings, but we are not booking them and advising them not to travel,” said Suzanne O’Leary of O’Leary Travel, based in Enniscorthy and Wexford.

“We cannot book people because we do not have control over all the links in the chain and still bear full responsibility for our customers.

“If someone books a flight directly because the airlines are still flying but are then turned over by the Gardaí, they not only lose the airfare, but they are likely to be fined.

“Before the laws came into effect that resulted in fines for non-essential travel, some people took the chance.

“It has created a difference of opinion among people who want to leave the country. I had a request for a trip to Italy this week and couldn’t book it. They are frontline healthcare workers who have had a tough year. They are now vaccinated and wanted to escape, but the Gardai would most likely turn them back. “

Ms. O’Leary said her company hasn’t taken bookings since last March. “We are closed for the foreseeable future,” she said.

She criticized Michael O’Leary when he said this week that all Ryanair customers had received refunds for flights they bought.

“All of our customers who trade through us have received a refund, but I know another agent in our area has not,” she said.

“I understand where Tony Holohan is from, but there needs to be a vaccine introduction and clear pathways to reopen. We have sought meetings with the Minister of Transport, but that has not yet happened. “

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