Greyhounds out of the traps or bulls at a rodeo spring to mind when you try to imagine the scramble of Irish holidaymakers yearning for their favourite European and world destinations when it is safe to travel again.
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much for which Irish sunshine worshippers can get excited right now, as the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs remains the same — no unnecessary travel.
That may or may not change on June 18.
Yet, with airlines itching to save their livelihoods by bringing passengers across the continent; and various countries announcing their steps towards resuming normality, Irish would-be holidaymakers are already fantasising about a summer not altogether lost.
According to Cathy Burke, the Cork-based general manager of Travel Counsellors Ireland, it all comes down to clarity — for holidaymakers, airlines, and travel agents: “The Department of Foreign Affairs measures requiring self-quarantining expires on June 18, unless it is extended. Aer Lingus and Ryanair say they won’t be offering significant flights before July 1 anyway, so if we had clarity for all involved for the next few months, then we can plan accordingly and responsibly.”
Ms Burke said that such a crisis should lead consumers to place their faith in travel agents, who will be working behind the scenes — vetting destinations — on behalf of would-be holidaymakers.
“Airlines may be offering cheap flights to destinations, but what happens if you take them up on a flight and arrive at a resort or complex to find swimming pools closed, kids clubs closed, no buffets or being confined to the property? Travel agents have people on the ground working for their customers, they will not take the word of tourism boards for the sake of it — they will take the guesswork and worry out of it. It has never been so important to place your trust in a travel expert,” she said.
Short-haul flights to Irish favourites such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Malta will have the most stringent of safety protocols, Ms Burke predicts: “The aircraft will never be as clean. If they are not, trust will be eroded. I am confident that all measures will be adhered to by the airlines."
Ms Burke said that waiting for some more months to pass may also be beneficial in order to experience longer-haul destinations from November to April.
“Countries like Australia and New Zealand will be amazing destinations to visit during those months, with the good weather and extra time for the virus to hopefully dissipate. There are a lot of working people whose firms may allow them longer holidays because of time built up during the crisis, allowing them to carry forward 2020 holidays, while early retirees could have a trip of a lifetime if they waited. By holding on to your money now, you are effectively doubling your holiday budget if you book for those months.”
Whatever way a would-be holidaymaker decides to book a trip this year or next, make sure they do so with a licenced and bonded firm, she said: “To be fair, most if not all Irish companies are licenced and bonded, so your money is safe.”
She warned that those whose passports are running out should renew as a matter of priority: “The passport offices have been closed for months and staff redeployed. The last thing you want is joining massive waiting times for a renewal, especially if you have booked a last-minute trip. The time is now if you haven’t already done so."