This has been an extraordinary week in this country and Europe with no flights operating due to the ash dust emanating from the Icelandic volcano eruption. This powerful natural phenomenon could keep going for months yet and it is proving a great uncertainty for European travel. Many travellers to South East Ireland are affected with scores of people stranded abroad and not able to get home.
Hoteliers in Waterford report cancelled bookings this week because thousands of tourists who were to fly into Ireland and be ferried around in coaches failed to materialize. Some tour operators were trying to bring their clients into the country via the car ferries.
As we go to press on Tuesday, airports remain shut. Waterford Airport has been heavily affected and with staff still to be paid, losses are inevitable. The ferry business has done extremely well and perhaps this may bring some extra traffic to Waterfor although the bypass may mean that Rosslare traffic keeps going. Some good marketing on the ships might see some divert to Waterford.
How will the American trade be affected is a major question. The new visitor centre will be dependent on Americans.
Will they see Ireland being too close to Iceland? Will they travel across the Atlantic this year as much? The stronger dollar sees Europe become more good value for Americans. Ireland is open to the UK so, at least, we may pick up some extra tourists that do not want to be caught abroad. More marketing in the UK would help.
High technology and pharmaceutical products do go by air freight and they will need now to be brought by road to the nearest airport before going to the USA or elsewhere. Ireland’s economy is already badly hit, now here is another blow.
‘Staycations’ have to be encouraged more. Visit our neighbours in Northern Ireland, try some counties in Ireland that you do not know and get more acquainted with them. A trip to the UK can also be rewarding or even Scotland.
In the meantime, contingency plans will be needed by everyone this year till this Volcano goes quiet. Short term breaks abroad will be hit and family holidays will have to be reconsidered.
Food safety is one area that needs to be considered more. What if the dust comes down? What can be done, will crops or grass be affected? Animals eating grass, could they get sick from the dust? There are many angles to this ash dust that we do not know about. Tests will need to be done to be sure that no danger is there. Promoting more spending at home must be a key point. In the meantime, we all wish our South West winds will return and blow this nuisance away.