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'Regional lockdowns the way forward,' says ferry operator

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Tourism industry: Skipper of the Arranmore Car Ferry, Seamus Boyle, ferries passengers from Arranmore Island to the mainland in Burtonport, Co Donegal. Photo: Joe Dunne

Tourism industry: Skipper of the Arranmore Car Ferry, Seamus Boyle, ferries passengers from Arranmore Island to the mainland in Burtonport, Co Donegal. Photo: Joe Dunne

Tourism industry: Skipper of the Arranmore Car Ferry, Seamus Boyle, ferries passengers from Arranmore Island to the mainland in Burtonport, Co Donegal. Photo: Joe Dunne

A leading island ferry operator has warned that the Government must opt for regional rather than national lockdowns if there is any second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Seamus Boyle, who operates ferries to Arranmore and Tory Island, warned that the consequences of another national lockdown for the economy would likely prove devastating.

He also warned that the Government must slash VAT rates for tourism and hospitality operators to help the industries recover from the losses sustained since March.

"If there is another outbreak or cluster, say in Dublin, then what is the point of a lockdown which also hits Cork or Donegal? I think the Government needs to target specific geographic areas as we move forward," he said. "I think they need to start looking at this on a regional basis."

Mr Boyle said he understands that different areas will have different attitudes to lockdown and preventative measures.

Some Irish islands wanted to maintain strict controls because of the pandemic, while others wanted an accelerated easing of controls to aid recovery of the tourism industry.

"I would estimate that our business is down by around 80pc or more," he said.

"We operate nine return services daily to Arranmore and three return services daily to Tory. We haven't seen any foreign tourists on our services.

"We have seen a good number of tourists from Northern Ireland, particularly over the bank holiday weekend. But much less travellers from the far south."

His ferry operations employ around a dozen staff across three vessels.

"The Government has to take action to help sectors like our own to recover. Cutting VAT rates would be a good start and I think they need to do a lot more to promote 'staycation' holidays.

"If Irish people holidayed at home this year, it would go a long way towards offsetting the loss of foreign tourist spending."

Meanwhile, the representative body for private bus and coach operators, the Coach Tourism and Transport Council (CTTC), said yesterday over 11,000 private bus and coach stock remain idle across the sector.

Irish Independent