Join Further Afield Travel and Tours as we speak with Mark Nolan, Managing Director of Dromoland Castle. Learn how the castle has managed through covid times and what the castle staff had been up to during the lockdown. The doors are open and once more more people are travelling.
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Today, taking a holiday is a central characteristic of modern societies. Every year millions of people travel away from home and the workplace for the purpose of pleasure and recreation. Underlying the modern mass tourism phenomenon is the widespread assumption that people need to ‘get away from it all’ for the sake of physical and mental health and the pressures of everyday life.
Going back in the 18th century a tiny minority of the population could enjoy a period of time away from home. The Grand tour embarked upon by the sons and daughters of the aristocratic families of society might have lasted a year or more, enjoying spas and the wonders of nature worldwide. Spas in Ireland at this time were in Lucan, Co. Dublin. Mallow, Co. Cork and Castleconnell, Co. Limerick. Insignificant in comparison to the UK or elsewhere.
Medical recommendations, if a diagnosis couldn’t be found were sometimes suggested ‘Take to the waters’ (go for a swim). This at least was better than bleeding which some doctors practiced at the time, painful.
Visitors rather than tourists to Ireland in the 1950s early 1960s would be mainly emigrants coming back to visit and stay with family or friends. Bord Failte a semi-state Irish Government department had been set up for the promotion of tourism. 88% of visitors were from the UK. By the 1970s this number had changed however to 15% coming from North America and Canada, with a smaller 7% coming from Europe. Bord Failte became involved in the development, regulations, promotion and marketing of the industry.
Coming up to the 1980s tourism was been taken more seriously by the Government. The Troubles in Northern Ireland had put a damper on tourism during the 1970s. Ireland had the lowest number of tourists in Europe. Then travel became more affordable, Ryanair airlines was set up in 1986 in competition to Aer Lingus the National airline.
Worldwide, with Oil crisis and other factors, economies were struggling. Unemployment numbers and immigration figures rocketed in Ireland. For the tourism business in Ireland the European Union funded this sector to the tune of 300 million pounds Sterling (the Euro not having yet been introduced). The targets for this investment were that overseas tourism numbers would reach 4.2 million and creating 25,000 jobs over a four-year period.
The 1990s saw another branch of tour operator on the scene. DMC, Destination Management Companies, these were hugely successful in arranging for companies from abroad to visit Ireland as a promotion or reward for their staff. Accompanied by family, friends or others who could avail of free time to explore whatever destination they were in.
Another was the Universities and Colleges that attracted European students to come to Ireland to further their English language speaking skills.
Cruise ships coming into numerous ports around the island has brought both footfall and employment to otherwise quiet regions. Coach companies, tour guides, stores, golf courses, visitors’ centres, Agri-tourism, parks and mountains, all have benefited from the expansion in tourism.
With the Good Friday agreement of 1998 marking the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the island of Ireland was brought under the one umbrella of Tourism Ireland, founded in 2000 for the promotion of tourism.
Figures for 2019 showed that the number of tourists was at an all-time high of 11.2 million people. When one considers that a spend of 5.5 billion euro was created, it’s an industry that’s among the top 7 in the country. The employment figure for this sector is about 180,000. This figure can be very misleading as the business is seasonal. Some parts of the country may see very little visitors for the winter months.
Ireland’s Tidy Towns.
In 1958 a competition was set up in Ireland to find what was the prettiest or tidiest town in the country. Only about 60 towns entered. Some boys, with the old flat caps declared ‘that some politicians have too much time on their hands and that this gimmick won’t certainly last too long’. The Glenties in Co. Donegal won the first one and followed up with retaining the title for two more years. When television started to broadcast in 1961 more and more towns entered.
A voluntary organization, with the main sponsors being the SuperValu grocery stores, with many other organizations also involved. Starting in March of each year, flowers are planted, trees are pruned, shop fronts and houses are given a rebirth. Going through towns and villages in the early mornings, it’s an awakening and heart lifting experience to see the dedication and the pride that people have to their locality. People from eight to eighty are involved. The organization is well established. A chairperson, secretary, treasurer and the other members of the committee with the skills and know how that are needed to deliver the support needed.
The idea of the competition is not just the aforementioned effort but also to bring attention to these areas. Investment from overseas is a must for all of Ireland and the IDA (Irish Development Authority) has attracted many companies under the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) to set up here. Small and large multinational companies are government funded and grant aided when agreeing to locate. First impressions are everything and the tidy towns are the injection that impresses a company that “what a lovely place to offer to employees. Schools, churches, community facilities, and much more. It’s so important for an area to have this investment, statistics show that for every 10 employees in a work place they are supporting 6 others in that area. With money being spent through housing or stores. Another point to remember is, that Ireland is now the largest English-speaking country in the EU, with a highly well-educated workforce.
With the environment having a ‘Greener’ belief now, hopefully it may be easier to keep buildings cleaner.
Adjudication for the competition takes place in June with results coming out in September or October. No monetary value for the winner. A gold medal for the winning town, silver and bronze for the runners up. Over 700 towns take part now after 70 years. Outliving the boys with the flat caps, even the caps have disappeared. For the towns that win or those that are close to winning the bar has now been raised. The top towns have to try and stay at the top and the runners up have to do better.
Best wishes and thanks to all that take part. No other country in Europe has this competitive approach to a tidy town. That having been said driving throughout Europe one has to appreciate the beauty and cleanliness of places.
North of the Iveragh Peninsula lays the Dingle Peninsula on Ireland's southwest Atlantic coast. Rugged cliffs and sandy beaches. One of our favourite drives!
The drive around the Iveragh Peninsula is known as the ‘Ring of Kerry’. The journey is 160 km of breathtaking scenery. You’ll experience 10,000 years of legends and folklore etched into the landscape.
Ring of Kerry
Sharing with our clients and friends what it is like to take that first post covid trip. We were a bit anxious with all of the rules and regulations and the concern we would be safe. I lost a few nights sleep, but once I felt we had properly prepared for the journey, I was confident that we would enjoy our first trip abroad and keep ourselves safe.
To begin, we needed to navigate the entry requirements and health regulations of the country. Valid passport required. With the passport sitting in the drawer for 18+ months, I blew off the dust and checked that it had not expired. To enter Ireland, a new requirement is the passenger locator form. This is something which appears to have become a common requirement for many destinations, including travel within Canada. As an example, if you were planning to enter Newfoundland, you would need to complete the government entry form.
Next consideration was the health regulations for entering the country. My partner and I are fully vaccinated, however there was a small glitch. I having two doses of Pfizer and he having the mixed vaccines. Ireland does not currently recognize the mixed doses which meant he was not consider fully vaccinated. There are some countries in Europe that accept the mixed doses of vaccination. I expect the Canadian government (as we are already seeing in some of our provinces) may provide a third vaccine dose to those who received the mixed doses. We were not about to give up on our travel plans. To enter Ireland, not being considered fully vaccinated, my partner had to take a covid test prior to departing Canada and upon arrival into Ireland, he had to self-quarantined and take another covid test on day 5. (I having been fully vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer meant, I had no restrictions upon arrival). All fine on day 5 and together we began our journey. Just for the note; as of August 20th, HSE confirms that 85% of Ireland’s population is fully vaccinated and they are now vaccinating children 12 years of age and up.
As the world is learning to manage covid-19, travel restrictions are easing and there will be less barriers as the world reopens. If you plan to travel, we strongly recommend you only do so once you are fully vaccinated. I am also optimistic that we will see more acceptance of the mixed vaccines as restrictions ease.
As we packed for the trip, we included ‘on the go – disinfecting wipes’, plenty of hand sanitizer and face masks. We have very comfortable material 3-layer face masks, but for the journey abroad, we purchased a stock of 4-layer disposable mask that fit well around the face and are very comfortable.
Off to the airport. We checked in online and printed our boarding passes in advance. I had heard the airports were quite busy so I gave ourselves extra time. It was unusually quiet in the airport and with having printed our boarding pass in advance, a simple scan of the boarding pass, and a scan of our passport, the kiosk was able to print out the baggage tags. After attaching the luggage tag, we placed our luggage on the baggage belt, the bags were scanned and we were ready to go through security. There was no need to engage with anyone and very few touch points. While there were plenty of airline staff available should you have any questions or need help.
Security was a breeze. Social distancing was maintained and perspex screens were in place. Everyone was wearing a mask (children exempt) You were still required to have any liquids in a clear bag and place your computer or tablet separate from your other belongings. It all felt very familiar.
We chose to visit the airport lounge in anticipation the airport might be busy. (you can purchase a pass) It’s a quieter area in the airport which offered great social distancing. We felt very comfortable. About an hour prior to our flight departure, we made our way to the gate. Where did all these people come from? With the airport boarding area being as large as it is, we still were able to find a position and maintain social distancing. When we began to board, the process was quick however the people felt a little closer than the 6 feet. Just as we experience in the grocery store, there will always be some in which they believe the rules do not apply. I am certain I was holding my breath. Once at our seats, I pulled out the ‘on-the-go disinfecting wipes and wiped down the seat handles and tray tables. The airlines have done an incredible job disinfecting the plane prior to boarding, but giving everything an extra wipe was no harm.
While on the plane, it was mandatory to wear your mask. (If I forgot to mention, you must wear your mask throughout the airport) Not all masks are accepted and I have heard a number of airlines now insisting on specific types of masks. I overhead the flight attendant advising one person on the plane, that the mask they were wearing was not allowed and they were provided with an approved mask. During meal service, food was served in packaging which enabled less handling. People were able to take off their masks while they ate. I found myself not wanting to remove my masks and chose to not eat. The flight is 6.5 hours, so a second meal service (breakfast) was served. This time I chose to wait until most had eaten and their masks were back on. I removed my mask for as little time as possible. I changed my mask about 4 hours into the flight and it felt very refreshing. My tip to those flying would be to take extra masks with you on the plane and change them every 4 hours. You will thank me later.
Our journey begins….
Hand sanitizing stations are everyone – hand sanitizing at the entry of all hotels, reception counter, and areas of touch points. Some of the hotels had hand sanitizing stations in the elevators, while most restaurants had hand sanitizer on the tables. The best one was the hand sanitizing station fixed to the back of the ‘jaunting cars’ (horse and trap).
Perspex was at the hotel reception counters, concierge desks, and in a number of the restaurants and bars. Large areas did not have perspex, but tables were placed with good social distancing. The hotels screened for covid symptoms. A couple of hotels have taken our temperature upon check in and all have asked us to either complete a health questionnaire in advance or asked us upon arrival.
Dining in the restaurant/pub indoors required proof of vaccination. If you were not fully vaccinated or did not have your ‘proof of vaccination’ with you, you would not be allowed into the restaurant and your option for dining was on the outdoor patio. If you were staying at a hotel, you were not required to show proof for indoor dining. Children who could not be vaccinated were exempt. The breakfast buffet existed, however the staff served you and social distancing was maintained.
Hotel rooms were disinfected before you checked in. You were given the option of having the staff clean your room daily. If you prefer not to have housekeeping enter your room, they would provide fresh towels and toiletries outside your door.
It was very reassuring the measures taken and in place at the hotels and restaurants/pubs to ensure everyone’s safety. We also appreciated being asked for our vaccine certificates, emphasizing they were following protocols. It was comfortable dining indoors knowing that those around us were fully vaccinated.
Is travel back? The hotels, restaurants/pubs were very busy. The weather was beautiful and predominantly the guests/clients were locals enjoying a ‘staycation’. Multi-generational family groups, couples and solos. Similar to us seeing many Canadians travelling in our own country. In Ireland, there are many family-owned hotels and restaurants – the boom of the staycation has seen these establishments through the challenging times. Speaking with staff, the return of the international traveller from Europe, Canada and America has started to take off. While not everyone is ready to venture abroad, it’s great to see people having confidence to travel again.
The workforce of the hospitality sector has not fully returned. During the challenging times of covid, some of the workforce have chosen new career paths. Speaking with a number of hotels and restaurants/pubs, 80% of staff have returned and new hires are taking place. Most attractions are open, but not all – some with capacity and reduced visiting hours. Music in the pubs has not yet returned, however the government is expected to relax the regulations further to allow the return of the musicians. The government has announced that live events will return, being phased in during the months of September and October. This did not impede our enjoyment. We missed the music in the pubs, however the atmosphere still had a great vibe. A bit of patience was well worth the exemplary service provided. For the 2022 season, all hotels, restaurants/pubs and attractions expect to be operating at full capacity.
Ireland affords a great experience with so much to offer. The flight is relatively short (6.5 hours) and there’s a wonderful Fáilte (welcome) from the local people. There is plenty to do with a choice of activities for everyone. The food is fabulous, jaw-dropping scenery, with wide open spaces, intertwined with incredible culture. Ireland is a great choice for those considering travel beyond Canada. Further Afield Travel and Tours has earned the reputation of being Ireland specialists. In addition to arranging individual trips to Ireland, we bring a number of small group tours which are limited to 22 guests. Most of our clients reside in the Greater Toronto area (Oakville, Burlington). We take you to many of our favourite places in Ireland and stay in wonderful hotels and often include a castle stay on our itineraries. We have our 2022 tours posted on our website. Space is limited. Give us a call if you are interested.
If there is another destination in mind, speak with one of our travel professionals. We are a full-service travel agency with valued contacts and preferred partnerships to many regions of the world.
Stay tuned for our next update. Speaking with the local people.