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'We need to open up our travel industry,' says Minister

Minister Robert Troy said it is “critically important” for tourism and trade to have an open travel industry.

Image: Shutterstock/Peter Krocka

A GOVERNMENT MINISTER has said that Ireland’s travel industry must be opened up to protect jobs and revenue linked with travel and tourism around the country.

Speaking to Katie Hannon on RTÉ One this afternoon, Minister of State for Trade Promotion Robert Troy said that we “need to open up our travel industry again”.

The minister said that it was “critically important” for tourism and trade to have an open travel industry.

Ireland is moving away from the previous system of a Green List, which identified a select number of countries that individuals could travel from without needing to restrict their movement upon arriving in Ireland, to an EU-wide travel policy that will use a traffic light system to indicate how safe a country is to travel to.

The plan, which was agreed on by ministers from the 27 member states earlier this week, will see the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control release a weekly map of the EU with a three-stage colour system showing the level of risk in each area.

“Traffic lights may have drawbacks, but the benefit of what was agreed earlier this week in the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg is that it will enable each individual country to determine what they’re going to do when the [EU member] states are orange and red,” Troy said.

He said that we need to “ramp up” antigen tests and that they would be a “game changer” for the travel industry.

Paul Hackett, CEO of online travel company Click and Go, said that we “rely on 20 million tourists per year coming into this country”.

“It is hugely important that we take an adult approach to how we manage this,” Hackett said. “Yes, we’re in a crisis, but what we want to look at the way in which we can reintroduce travel in a safe environment, in a Covid-negative environment as much as we possibly can.”

Hackett criticised the EU policy to adopt a traffic light system for permitting travel between countries.

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“Traffic lights, by their very nature, change colour and I think it was indicative of a total Kicking the can down the road scenario with what happened with the traffic lights,” Hackett said.

Hackett said that the traffic light system would not work because the “position can move too quickly”.

“What we need to have is pre-departure airport testing so that passengers who are travelling feel safe and confident that they’re on an aircraft with other Covid-negative people,” he said.

Senior government leaders are meeting to discuss public health advice to move Ireland to Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions, which would see tighter limits imposed on social activity, businesses, and travel within the country.

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