The Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC), has called on Government to provide urgent clarity on its next steps, following the latest European Union (EU) recommendations which encourage Member States to remove US passengers from their travel ‘safe list’.
After much speculation over the past week, the EU recommended that Member States reintroduce travel restrictions on visitors from the US. This decision was made on the basis of increasing Covid-19 rates there. The EU Council also removed Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia from the ‘safe travel list’ of countries. The recommendation is not binding.
The CTTC is Ireland’s largest representative body for coach touring companies and private bus operators. Its members are the leading providers of domestic and international tours, and pre-pandemic, the sector was responsible for attracting more than two million overseas tourists per year. Through the provision of their services, coach tour operators contribute more than €400 million to the Irish economy, while supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in retail, hospitality, and visitor experience – through the length and breadth of the country.
Having endured an enormously difficult 18 months, the industry is now facing further uncertainty, as Government has yet to confirm whether it intends to adopt the EU recommendations and remove US tourists from its travel ‘safe list’. Given that the US is a key market for coach tourism operators, any decision to halt US-Ireland travel is likely have a detrimental impact on a sector which has already been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic and associated public health restrictions.
Commenting on the ongoing difficulties John Halpenny, Chairperson of the CTTC, said: “The latest recommendations issued by the EU will do little to boost consumer confidence Stateside. If implemented, these new guidelines will make it virtually impossible for US tourists to travel to Ireland, and will, in essence, block access to a key market for both the coach tourism and hospitality sectors – two industries which have borne the brunt of the economic damage inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic”.
“As a sector, we are seeking immediate clarity from Government on whether they intend to adopt the EU Council recommendations, and if so, how they plan to assist coach tour operators in offsetting the losses which will no doubt occur as a result. Over the last number of weeks, CTTC members have put their shoulders to the wheel, and made the necessary preparations, to accommodate international tourists from the American market, who we anticipated, would visit Ireland in the coming period. The looming uncertainty as a result of this announcement will undoubtedly jeopardise these plans. Coach tourism is a low margin activity in most cases, so it is vital that we gain immediate clarity on how Government intends to respond to the EU’s recommendations”.