Ireland, like the rest of the world, has struggled with the far-reaching impact of the Covid-19 virus. But the availability of vaccines has stemmed the tide and travel, tourism, and optimism are returning to the Emerald Isle and other vacation destinations. The country is moving slowly and sensibly to make sure everyone is safe before restoring full services. The projected date for a total return to normalcy is July 19. Please keep a close watch on what the government has to say about tourists’ responsibilities leading up to that date.
For all that, there’s a palpable feeling of excitement in the tourist industry now that wasn’t there six months ago. And that is great news for tour operators, travel agencies, Ireland’s tourist board, and the numerous businesses in Ireland that count on visitors for their survival. It’s also great news for many here who can’t wait to get back to the ould sod to see relatives and friends or experience Ireland in all its beauty for the first time!
Many travelers take great pride in booking their own trips online, but in these dodgy days of viruses, vaccines, mandatory isolation, airport and flight disruptions, travel authorities strongly recommend booking through agencies whose employees deal with these requirements every day and are experts on what you should do and how to do it.
Travel agents can quickly determine what best suits your interests and needs, keep you within your budget, and come up with a workable itinerary. Many who travel to Ireland are returning to their roots and that experience, the travel industry knows, can be very emotional, so it’s important to have a good feeling about the entire trip.
Those who visit Ireland are certainly familiar with Crystal Travel, a local family business. Co-founded in Boston in 1985 by Jim Kelly and his wife, Teresa, the company has provided area groups and travelers with tour packages and tickets over those many years.
Sean Kelly, Crystal’s operations director, spoke with us about the impact of Covid restrictions on Ireland. “Things are opening back up,” he said, “and Ireland is getting back to some semblance of normalcy. People want to get going after staying isolated.” He added that in 2019, US and Canadian visitors “eclipsed two million for the first time ever.”
Since April of this year, foreigners looking to visit Ireland have had to provide proof that they either had Covid and recovered or were vaccinated. If they had no proof, they were required to self-isolate for up to 14 days. But, Kelly says, as of July 19, Ireland, in an effort to restart the economy, will participate in the European Union’s acceptance of vaccination proof that exempts testing and isolation. As of this writing, the details were still being worked out.
Across Ireland, various attractions are open but enforcing timed entry so that only a certain number of visitors are inside at one time. I well remember being in the Titanic exhibit in Belfast a few years ago when there were so many people in front of each display that it was nearly impossible to see anything, so I am all for keeping the numbers down at attractions when possible.
There are so many worthwhile attractions to be seen in each and every county so it’s good to see the country rebounding.
As I have written before, my favorite family hotel in Ireland is Lough Inagh Lodge Hotel in Recess, Connemara, Co. Galway, and returning there as I do whenever I’m in Ireland is like going home. It’s a small, charming country house and every single employee is welcoming and warm and wonderful. Maire O’Connor, the owner, knows good staff and chooses them well. Staying there as a solo, female traveler is completely comfortable and I cannot say that about every hotel.
Lough Inagh, of course, adheres to the Covid restrictions and lists them on their website: Meals can be provided in the bar, dining room, or bedroom throughout the day; sanitizer points are available at the front door, reception, main hall, and back of house; staff are continuously trained and updated in best practice including hand washing, wiping surfaces, handling money, etc. All glasses, plates, cutlery, etc. go through a high temperature wash to be sterilized. Guests are asked to pay by card.
Be sure to check with any hotel you plan to visit before going as many have not opened for the season.
A very popular tourist attraction in Connemara is Kylemore Abbey. The Abbey, like most all attractions, has established a series of visitor guidelines and will follow strict guidelines and opening protocols.
There will be hand sanitation points for guests and staff, increased cleaning schedules with frequent sanitizing of “touchpoints,” equipping staff with face shields and individual hand sanitizers, introduction of one-way systems and floor marking to reinforce social distancing, increasing staff training, temporary closure of the To Go Café, Head Gardener’s House, The Vinery and Wild Play area, removal of candle lighting facilities and brochures. Guests are still welcome to visit this beautiful property and walk the grounds.
Enjoy Ireland whenever and wherever you go, but be mindful that there are Covid restrictions there, too.