Somebody should warn the Department of Education: pupil absence rates at Irish schools will be far higher than normal in September. Hordes of kids will be on holidays abroad. The Irish outbound tourism industry is getting ready for a late summer.
Tony Holohan, the chief medical officer (CMO), appeared in front of an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday to answer questions over the apparent refusal of public health authorities to support the use of antigen testing to facilitate commerce, such as international travel. The State is in a minority on this stance in Europe, whereas other countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands have found uses for them.
The CMO was characteristically steadfast in his refusal to yield to pressure from TDs and Senators to support the use of antigen testing to facilitate travel, so as to save the aviation industry, which currently in Ireland is facing the greatest economic threat in its history.
Holohan did, however, throw the sector a potential lifeline when he indicated that he believes Ireland “will see extensive resumption of airline travel in the late summer without the need for any form of testing” as the vaccination programme progresses.
Much of the focus so far of the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the tourism industry has been on the inbound sector, with foreign tourists effectively banned. Meanwhile, the outbound sector has also been decimated, with Irish travel agents and tour operators effectively shut down since last year.
The pre-pandemic statistics show that Irish people are among the most enthusiastic foreign-holiday-makers in Europe.
If Holohan is right and travel is allowed “without the need for any form of testing” in late summer, expect there to be an almighty rush of outbound family holiday bookings for August. There won’t be anywhere near enough capacity to meet demand, however, and prices will also spike.
Having been starved of international travel, many Irish families will choose to seek out the last of the summer sun across Europe in September, and possibly into October and beyond. It may mean pulling their kids out of school temporarily, but that is unlikely to stop them.