Summer reopening under Level 3 critical to survival of Ireland’s visitor attractions

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The Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions (AVEA) says reopening is essential as visitor experiences and attractions expect a repeat of 75% revenue shortfall in 2021, writes Shauna McCrudden

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It feels like Level 5 lockdown restrictions are never-ending, but in order to access the lifeline of a summer domestic tourism season, AVEA says that Ireland’s visitor experiences and attractions must be allowed to reopen their doors under Level 3 Covid-19 restrictions. AVEA has warned that the survival of visitor experiences core to the fabric of Ireland’s cultural identity and tourism industry is at a tipping point.

AVEA, the national representative association for the Visitor Experience and Attractions (VEA) industry in Ireland formed in 2017, has expressed the concern of its 85 members who currently are not permitted to reopen under Level 3 of the Government’s recently revised Covid-19 ‘Path Ahead Plan’. According to Fáilte Ireland, AVEA members rank among some of the country’s most popular visitor experiences and include the Guinness Storehouse, the Cliffs of Moher, the Book of Kells, Tayto Park, the National Gallery of Ireland, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

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Sean Connick, Chair of AVEA, said, “We are urgently calling on the Government to confirm the inclusion of visitor experiences and attractions (VEA) as a named sector permitted to open under Level 3 when the country is ready to move to that stage. The opening of visitor attractions under Level 3 was correctly amended in November 2020, in line with other tourism, hospitality and retail businesses. It is our assumption that the non-inclusion of visitor attractions under Level 3 in the revised plan is a simple oversight by the Government rather than a policy reversal.

“The VEA sector is set to miss another season of international travel, meaning two full years of lost revenue for our members. With the sector continuing to operate in survival mode, it is critical that visitor attractions are given the desperately needed lifeline of access to domestic tourism during the summer months. This is the only market the sector can depend on. And given the cautious approach by the Government to lifting restrictions that AVEA supports, it’s likely the domestic season will run for an extremely limited period, with capacity curtailed significantly due to operational restrictions.”

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The safe reopening of visitor experiences and attractions

Sean Connick said the sector can act as a leader in adhering to public health guidelines and operate safe environments for visitors and staff. In spite of very low levels of demand, AVEA members have worked incredibly hard to reopen safely when permitted to do so.

“Ireland’s visitor attractions are perfectly positioned to reopen safely under Level 3, having made a significant investment in implementing visitor and staff safety measures. These include the roll-out of staff training under the Fáilte Ireland Covid-19 Safety Charter.

“Ireland’s visitor attractions are professionally controlled spaces and are highly experienced in managing the flow of people, with 85% of our members operating online booking systems allowing for detailed capacity management. Visitor attractions are very spacious places, with many primarily operating in an outdoor setting. The guided tour element that most of our members operate also acts as an additional safety measure ensuring that members of the public do not congregate or stand stationary while visiting.”

The AVEA acknowledges the difficult task the Government faces in balancing the protection of public health and taking a cautious approach to safely reopening the economy and society. However, with deliberations on the reopening plan due to take place on 5th April, it is critical that the Government consults formally with members to ensure a fair and equitable discussion. 

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Sean Connick added, “Confirmation that the VEA sector can reopen under Level 3 would give our members more certainty to put plans in place now for the summer ahead. The short-term objectives of our members are to maintain jobs and talent, offer much needed positive mental health benefits throughout the summer and protect our strategic tourism and cultural assets. Meeting these objectives will be fundamental to strengthening the pace of recovery when our international visitors can return.”

To find out more about the Association of Visitor Attractions and Experiences, visit avea.ie 

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