Back in 2017, in a pre-Covid world, the then Taoiseach proudly stated that Ireland would double its global footprint by 2025. Leo Varadkar said that Ireland would be “an island at the centre of the world” and the growth in aviation connectivity to Dublin in particular made that claim very credible indeed. Sadly the Covid pandemic has put a stop to such an ambition – whether it is a temporary pause or a permanent halt depends on the Government’s next move in relation to international connectivity.
Are we set to be an island off a non-EU island off the Western coast of Europe or a globally connected, dynamic, open economy where trade and tourism flourish? The latter is the choice that all right minded people would choose yet Government’s current attitude to aviation, including the harshest restrictions across Europe and mandatory hotel quarantine for our key strategic markets, makes the former a growing and undesirable possibility.
Just last week Ireland’s aviation industry – including big hitters like Aer Lingus, Ryanair, daa and Shannon Airport – published a plan to rescue the country’s aviation sector before it is too late. The Aviation Restart Plan sets out a balanced and evidence-based approach to enable the recommencement of aviation and the restoration of Ireland’s connectivity. It contains a comprehensive set of recommendations which, if finalised and implemented, can facilitate the restoration of connectivity whilst continuing to protect public health.
Crucially Government must change tack and state how and when international travel can resume. Failure to do so will result in long term economic damage and airlines, with the very definition of mobile assets, will have little choice but to move aircraft to markets where they are allowed to operate and demand is evident.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) has long called for Government to provide a comprehensive plan to restore Irish aviation. 75% of Ireland’s tourism economy is dependent on international visitation and thus it is critical to tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses that inbound markets are opened up once again. The European Commission’s proposed Green Digital Cert – expected to be adopted by the European Parliament later this month – offers a pan-European approach to restore international connectivity and Ireland should urgently adopt and implement it.