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Tuesday 26 September 2017

Eoghan Corry: This could spell disaster for Irish tourism this summer

You might not have noticed this when the good times were rolling, but we live on an island. Which is why the premiere of Ash Cloud II at 7am this morning is particularly worrying.

Before yesterday, sectors of our tourist industry were already reporting that advance bookings are down. People in Europe are worried about flying this summer after their experience of recent events.

It appears that while some of them can handle getting stranded at the end of a long train journey they are a bit more uncomfortable with boats and trains.

We can understand. It is a huge inconvenience for those of us who had come to believe that Malaga was closer than Mitchelstown.

As we all learned to our considerable cost last month, the south of Spain is at least 40 hours away by train and ferry. Thanks to the pioneers of air travel such as Messrs Stein and O'Leary, we had forgotten.

Advance bookings have also been hit in The Canaries. Coming back to mainland Spain cost passengers about €500 last month, and then there was the overland trip home.

That inconvenience was shared by those travelling the opposite direction.

And the fear is that, now the problem has recurred, they won't.

All of Europe was flying today, except Ireland. The IAA and the Met Service tell us that the problem is temporary and unlikely to occur on a regular basis. Tell that to the Germans.

It is not much use to us either, when the websites are overloaded and the call centres won't open, 9am in the case of Aer Lingus this morning and 8am in the case of Ryanair. Listening to holding music on an international roaming call costs €3 a minute.

But coming at the start of the summer, the timing could not have been worse.

Travel agents, inbound and outbound, are going to have to spend more unproductive hours rescuing stranded customers.

Another reason not to send customers to Ireland.

It looks like being a cold summer. That ash cloud has blocked out a lot more daylight than we expected.

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