Thursday 5 December 2019

Visiting pensioners offered free travel

Aideen Sheehan

PENSIONERS from every country in the world are being offered free travel in Ireland under a government scheme to boost tourism numbers.

Around 138 people have already availed of the free rail travel scheme which commenced operation last week, Failte Ireland said.

The scheme was announced in the last Budget as one offering "greatly discounted" travel to senior citizens, but has been expanded in scope since then and is being operated by Failte Ireland and Iarnrod Eireann.

Anyone aged 66 or older is entitled to avail of free train journeys all around the country, by mainline rail, DART and commuter services. Failte Ireland said that it would review the scheme at the end of the year and if successful it might be extended to bus services as well.

It estimated that around 40,000 senior citizens travelled to Ireland each year already.

"This is an important sector as a lot of people in this age group don't have mortgages or dependent children, and they have the time to travel," said Failte Ireland Chief Executive Shaun Quinn.

Meanwhile, a critical lack of rental cars for hire could deter half-a-million tourists from visiting Ireland this summer.

The ending of tax breaks and the inability to get credit has seen the national fleet shrink from 31,000 vehicles to 12,000.

New Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin has been warned the shortage of rental cars is the No 1 problem for the industry.

The shortage of cars could affect 420,000 overseas visitors during the peak summer months, and this could rise even higher to 530,000 if one major firm which is currently in examinership ceases trading, an Incoming Tour Operators Association report found.

Irish Independent

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