State-run OPW sites and national museums are refusing to accept group bookings, contradicting Government advice to ‘holiday at home’
The Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC), the country’s leading representative body for coach tour operators, has expressed its deep concern over the refusal to facilitate group bookings at Office of Public Works (OPW) sites, galleries, museums and cultural attractions across the country.
With rules around international travel remaining somewhat unclear, many people across Ireland have followed the Government’s advice to ‘holiday at home’, with coach tours proving an attractive excursion. In the past number of weeks, operators have been arranging coach tour bookings for groups of domestic tourists – with many implementing policies whereby all passengers must be fully vaccinated in order to travel on their coaches.
Through the provision of their services, coach operators transport tourists throughout the country; visiting heritage sites, galleries, museums and other cultural and historical attractions. However, the decision on behalf of some national museums and galleries to refuse group bookings for both this tourist season and summer 2022, has made it impossible for coach tour providers to operate their services and many are now experiencing a high volume of cancellations.
Commenting on the situation, John Halpenny, Chairperson of the CTTC said: “The refusal of OPW sites and national museums to facilitate group bookings for fully-vaccinated Irish tourists is putting an unnecessary strain on an industry that has already suffered deep economic damage as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“Throughout this crisis, the Government has consistently advised against international travel, and instead, has encouraged the public to ‘stay and spend’ within Ireland, with coach tourism proving a popular excursion. As we know, the primary appeal of coach tourism is not the coach itself, but rather, the visitor attractions and cultural sites that are encountered along the way.”
“If tourists are prevented from accessing these amenities, many will simply cancel their bookings, as a number of CTTC members have witnessed over the last couple of weeks. I would highlight the case of one coach tour operator in particular, who was unable to book a museum visit for 30 tourists – despite every single passenger on board providing proof of vaccination.”
“The situation to close off OPW sites, galleries and museums for groups is especially perplexing, given the detrimental impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the tourism sector. As public health restrictions ease, now is the optimal time to re-open these attractions up to fully vaccinated groups. I would strongly urge the Government to direct these amenities to commence the facilitation of group bookings immediately and ensure that the recovery of domestic tourism is not undermined by this.”