Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

17.05 9 Sep 2020


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NPHET needs to get opinions from people 'other than medics' when making decisions about foreign travel, a prominent travel agent has said.

Paul Hackett - CEO of Click&Go (which runs Fly Shannon) and Board Member of the ITAA (Irish Travel Agents Association) - says Ireland is "totally out on our own" in the EU with the current restrictions.

It comes after Ryanair warned staff that it will have to close its Shannon and Cork bases for the winter if restrictions aren't eased.

Meanwhile, new guidance around travel is expected when the Government announces its longer-term 'living with COVID' roadmap next week.

Mr Hackett told Lunchtime Live business has been "dire" for all travel agents in the country since March.

Ireland 'totally out on our own' with foreign travel restrictions, travel agent says

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

He said: "It's reflective of the rationale behind statements from both Ryanair and Aer Lingus, with regard to reducing capacity, moving aircraft off the island, and looking for opportunities elsewhere.

"The inbound traveller - the international tourist - generates in overall terms 250,000 jobs across the State. It's the single largest national indigenous employer in the country. Those jobs would be at risk if we don't open up to inbound travel.

"Nobody - including the airlines or airports - would advocate anything contrary to public health advice.

"What we are looking for is clear guidance - clear instruction on what we can do."

He explained that Ryanair flights into Cork and Shannon mean tourists feed into the surrounding towns, cities and counties.

However, businesses such as guesthouses, hotels and bars have lost all that business during the summer - and are now facing an even more challenging winter situation if the Ryanair bases close.

'What are we doing wrong?'

Mr Hackett argued that Ireland needs to figure out 'what we're doing wrong'.

He pointed out that we currently have COVID-19 rates higher than countries such as Sweden, despite strict travel restrictions and pubs remaining close.

He observed: "Italy is open for travel since June, inbound and outbound, and their case numbers are less than us.

"What are we doing wrong... or what could we be learning from best in class? What are other countries doing right that we don't seem to be doing?"

Mr Hackett said a 'zero quarantine period' for people arriving here would be best, with COVID-19 testing systems in place to allow for that.

He said: "The EU have had very clear guidance on travel within the European Union since mid-June - Ireland has stood alone and not followed that.

"We're totally out on our own in terms of our travel guidance at the moment - we should be following more closely what the other EU member states are doing.

"Travel is not demonstrably at fault for COVID cases: our case numbers are high, and we have no travel."

Green list is 'irrelevant'

Mr Hackett said the industry is expecting changes when the new roadmap is announced, but that the current green list is 'irrelevant' as NPHET continues to advise against all non-essential travel.

He argued: "What we really need to do is move to having an economy that can live with travel and live with some of the risks: we can't have a zero risk economy.

"NPHET need to get opinions from other people other than the medics into the room here. The Government need to take some responsibility around this.

"Yes, NPHET and the medics are absolutely key to the whole process - but I wouldn't have a board without having different opinions or alternate opinions or alternative views on what the impact of a particular decision is going to be."

Main image: File photo.Picture by: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

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