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holiday plans Government to offer incentive to ensure people holiday in Ireland rather than overseas

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Tourism Minister Catherine Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tourism Minister Catherine Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tourism Minister Catherine Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Government is planning a major push to ensure people holiday in Ireland rather than choosing to travel abroad once restrictions are eased.

Supports for the hospitality industry will be extended into the summer months and a new State-supported spending incentive for holidaymakers will be introduced. The Government wants to ensure people book staycations in Ireland when the EU introduce digital green passports for vaccinated travellers.

The vaccine passports are expected to be rolled out by mid-July at the latest.

The much-hyped Stay and Spend initiative is to be ditched in favour of a more consumer-friendly incentive scheme to encourage people to holiday in Ireland.

Central to the Government’s holiday-at-home plan is ensuring inter-county travel is permitted and restrictions on indoor dining are eased as soon as possible.

Indoor dining and accommodation is not expected to return until late June or July.

However, with an eye on kick-starting the tourism season earlier, the Government is considering allowing B&Bs and guesthouses open before hotels.

Next week the Cabinet are set to sign off on ‘Plan for the Summer’ which will give an indication of how restrictions will be eased over the coming months.

Separately, Tourism Minister Catherine Martin is working on a “recovery and reboot programme” for the industry, which she will bring to Cabinet in the coming weeks.

Ms Martin is working with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe on a scheme to replace the Stay and Spend initiative.

The new initiative will be launched in September to encourage people to continue booking holidays in the off-season.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and Covid Restriction Support Scheme (CRSS) will be extended into the summer months to allow businesses get back on their feet.

Yesterday, while speaking to a webinar organised by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME), Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise Robert Troy said the hospitality industry may be allowed reopen in late May or early June.

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Meanwhile, garden centres and homeware shops are expected to reopen from early May as part of a phased reopening of non-essential retail.

Government sources indicated yesterday that as part of a gradual reopening of shops, click-and-collect will resume in less than two weeks’ time. Garden centres and homeware shops are expected to open first, before the rest of retail.

Several Government departments, including the Department of Agriculture, have made presentations pushing for the reopening of garden centres. Sources believe opening up garden centres will allow people to spend more time outdoors as the weather improves.

This will be a part of the gradual reopening of society over the month of May, including the resumption of personal services such as salons, hairdressers and barbers, as well as the resumption of religious services and the rest of construction.

It is understood that Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will be advocating for the resumption of in-person house viewings as opposed to virtual viewings.

He is expected to encourage fellow ministers to push for the full reopening of the construction sector, which will include commercial works, such as office buildings – 147,000 workers are currently involved in the construction sector and 80,000 are on-site workers.

Around 24,000 of these are involved in residential construction and have been allowed back since April 12.

Government sources indicated that, as ministers will meet next week to finalise the revised Path Ahead plan, they want to convey as much clarity as possible to the public to avoid confusion.

Ministers hope to “learn from past mistakes” and put out a clear pathway for reopening in the month of May, as well as some indication for some easing in June and July.

While the EU will finalise its digital green cert, or ‘vaccine passport’ in June, it will be up to each member state to decide how they want to implement the system. It is believed that the EU’s digital green cert will not dominate Cabinet discussions next week, as ministers maintain that it is still too early to allow for travel abroad.

However, there is a push in Government to set out a plan for reopening the aviation industry.

Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney predicted that travel restrictions would be eased in the coming months and people would be permitted to travel abroad.

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