One in two Irish abroad plan to return home for Christmas, despite Covid uncertainty

One in two Irish abroad plan to return home for Christmas, despite Covid uncertainty

Coronavirus signage at Cork Airport Arrivals. File Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

More than one in two Irish people living abroad are considering returning to Ireland for Christmas, according to a new survey.

This compares to the three in 10 who said they were thinking about coming home last year. The research, carried out by FRS recruitment, sought to ascertain Irish people’s attitudes towards coming home for Christmas this year and the extent to which the public health situation is impacting travel plans.

Among the Irish people living in the UK and the Middle East, almost two-thirds (64%) said they were likely to travel back, compared with 57% of those living in Europe, 74% of those living in the US and Canada, and 31% of those living in Australia and New Zealand.

Asked which factors were likely to influence whether or not they would return, 38% said the cost of travel was their main consideration. Almost nine out of 10 (89%) of the Irish abroad surveyed said they travelled home for Christmas in the past.

Covid uncertainty in Ireland and elsewhere

Half of those surveyed said they had been back to Ireland since the pandemic began. File Picture: Gary Ashe
Half of those surveyed said they had been back to Ireland since the pandemic began. File Picture: Gary Ashe

However, as with last year, uncertainty around Covid-19 remains a major consideration for people planning to reunite with loved ones here this Christmas. 

37% of the survey’s respondents said the current public health situation in Ireland was something that would influence their decision to come home. A further 23% stated the Covid-19 situation in the country in which they currently reside was the main consideration.

Despite lockdowns both at home and abroad, just under half of those surveyed (47%) said they had journeyed back to Ireland since the pandemic began.

The research also asked participants what aspects of Christmas in Ireland they miss most when living abroad. Unsurprisingly, 93% said spending time with friends and family was the main thing they most missed.

“As things stand, one in two of the Irish people abroad still plan on travelling home for Christmas. While this situation is subject to change, the survey was conducted at a time when the worsening public health situation in Ireland was being reported and while the Government was implementing additional restrictions,” said incoming Group CEO of FRS Network, Colin Donnery. 

"It was also interesting that the cost of travel is the biggest factor impacting on the decisions from the Irish abroad, closely followed by public health concerns - despite the rising number of infections being top of the news throughout this period."

Mr Dennery said he would not be surprised if the attitudes of Irish living abroad changed in the weeks ahead, particularly if the health situation deteriorated further.    

Irish people more connected to their community since onset of pandemic

While Covid-19 has unfortunately kept some families apart for the last 18 months, closer to home, it may be bringing some communities together.

According to new research, four in five Irish believe their local community has been important to them throughout the pandemic, with three in four saying it has played “a pivotal role”.

The research, conducted by iReach on behalf of An Post, also found that majority of people (70%) would now prefer to live in a small community or town rather than a city. A third of those surveyed (33%) said they engaged more in community activities over the last year-and-a-half than they had previously.

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