International travel has resumed to about 35% to 40% of pre-Covid levels following the rollout of the EU digital covid pass, a representative group has said.
However, the Irish Travel Agents’ Association (ITAA) added that it is likely to be at least another 12 months before the 2019 level of business is seen again.
Non-essential travel abroad was banned for much of the pandemic, in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and variants, between countries.
However, since July 19, this travel has been permitted to resume, with the EU digital Covid pass removing the need for quarantine for vaccinated travellers arriving into members of the bloc.
Pat Dawson, chief executive of the ITAA, said there has been a “very big change” since that date, with consumers feeling a lot more confident about travelling abroad.
“I’m just back myself and the flights I was on were almost full. It was nice and smooth. There certainly has been a change since the covid certificates have given people the freedom to go,” he said.
He added: “The October bank holiday weekend would be full and the vast majority of business is very heavily booked. Those are peak dates and when probably the families who didn’t go away now, that’s when they will go.”
European countries are the most popular destinations due to the Covid pass, Mr Dawson said, with Spain and Portugal being the two hotspots for Irish tourists.
Mr Dawson said travel agents are predicting a “very, very busy 2022”, but this year will be slow to build back up capacity.
“The capacity is increasing every month. The big thing that we’re waiting on at the minute, and it’s a bit away by the sounds of things, is the United States to open up to Europe,” he said.
“That’s a very big market, both a corporate market and a family and friends market. That will take another month or two by the sounds of it. There are thousands of people who go for family, friends, business, and holidays.”
He added: “Then you have cruises, which is another big market with 40,000 people and that’s slow to start back. This year will be about 25% to 35% of capacity.”
Airlines are slow to resume full operations at Cork airport, in particular, he said, due to the planned works which will shut down the facility for several weeks from September.
“Cork airport is getting back a good few, but Shannon airport has got back more because Shannon isn’t closing down for 10 or 12 weeks. But still Cork has 20 departures a day, when it would normally be 50 a day or more," he added.