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Travel rules for US tourists to Ireland unchanged despite EU decision to remove from safe list

The tourism sector had sought clarity as businesses feared further loss of revenue.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS decided not to change travel rules for people arriving into Ireland from the United States, despite a decision by the European Union to remove the country from its safe list for non-essential travel.

On Monday the European Council recommended member states reimpose travel restrictions on US tourists due to rising Covid cases in America. It also removed Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and the Republic of North Macedonia from the list.

In a statement to The Journal, the Department of Health indicated Ireland will not make the move to change rules based on the EU Council vote, stating that this vote was within the Schengen framework, “and therefore Ireland did not take part in its adoption”.

“Furthermore, the EU recommendation is non-binding and Member States retain control over their own border restrictions,” the department added.

In May this year the US was removed from Ireland’s list of designated states – the countries from which visitors are subject to mandatory hotel quarantine.

In its statement the department said “this remains the case”.

The tourism sector had sought clarity from the government on the EU recommendation, as companies feared another setback just as the country begins significantly loosening Covid restrictions. 

The Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) said the US is a key market for coach tourism operators and any decision to halt US-Ireland travel would have a detrimental impact on a sector that has already been “ravaged” by the pandemic.

Spokesperson Feargal Barton told The Journal that tourism coach operators are “hugely dependant” on US tourists.

“Since March 2020 there has been a huge blow to us all, we’ve lost maybe 80 to 85% of tourism related business,” he said.

With the season due to end in October, many operators are only planning a return in 2022, but for those planning to work over the next two months, any additional restrictions on travel could have a significant impact, he said.

“There aren’t huge groups coming over from the US but there’s a small trickle of groups – golf groups, some family groups. The announcement from the EU encouraging countries to remove US passengers from the safe list is a worry for those groups coming in,” Barton said.

He said the sector needs the government to reassure US tourists that the country is welcoming them, despite the messaging from Brussels.

The current requirements for those travelling into Ireland from outside the EU apply to arrivals from the US:

  • All passengers arriving into Ireland are required to complete a Passenger Locator Form;
  • Those with valid proof of vaccination or recovery are not subject to travel related-testing or quarantine;
  • Those without valid proof of vaccination or recovery are required to present evidence of a not detected result from a RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival into the country, and to self-quarantine for 14 days;
  • Self-quarantine can be shortened upon receipt of a not detected result from a RT-PCR test taken from day five onwards after arrival into the country.

John Galligan, of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) said ease of travel for US passengers is not just vital to the tourism sector but also for business and to facilitate travel from Ireland.

“Quite often what people don’t get is that American tourists coming to Ireland fill up an aircraft in one direction and that’s essential to having an aircraft available here to go in the opposite direction – it’s a symbiotic relationship,” he said.

They’re a very important part of our tourism sector, if we were to block Americans we would definitely be shooting ourselves in the foot. There are not a lot of American tourists at the moment but there are some. Business travel is a part of this too – the government keeps telling us how important foreign direction investment is and travel feeds into that. 

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Galligan said Ireland has been slower than other countries to open up and while this was due to legitimate public health concerns, it has left the sector struggling. 

“I have to acknowledge that we would not be here were it not for government support, but on the other side we’re now in a situation as nation where we’re almost institutionalised, terrified by politicians an experts so that the notion of dropping everything, grabbing a bikini and heading to Spain is anathema to us,” he said.

“That will slowly dissipate as we become more comfortable with the fact that Covid is here to say, but that psychological impact will take a while to get over. Most people now are not looking to travel until 2022. ”

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