An Taoiseach says 80pc of Irish adults could be vaccinated by June. Airlines are advertising. So when can we travel?
Aer Lingus is advertising its first-ever flights to the Caribbean. Ryanair has launched a Covid-19 "travel wallet" ahead of a summer season it says will see it at 80pc of normal capacity.
Both airlines have new summer routes from Dublin to Greek islands like Santorini and Rhodes, and Turkish Airlines will shortly announce flights from Ireland to Antalya.
When the clocks go back is when we usually see airlines switch from summer to winter schedules. Clearly, this year is different. But the EU has expedited work on its Digital Green Certificate, and the Taoiseach this week said 80pc of Irish adults could be vaccinated by the end of June.
Is there suddenly a sniff of summer sun holidays in the air?
Let me spare you the suspense. The answer is no.
Well, not yet, anyway. With Level 5 lockdown extended, ultra-cautious language continuing from Merrion Street, and staycations still dependent on public health criteria being met, the chances of even fully vaccinated punters – who need to wait at least two weeks after their second shot for full protection to kick in - jetting off this summer are slim.
Beyond vague intentions to look at opening hotels in June, we still have no roadmap for rebooting Irish tourism and hospitality, let alone foreign holidays. Far from talking about unlocking travel, Ireland is considering adding arrivals from Germany, France and the US to its hotel quarantine list (presuming they don't abscond, that is).
Travel will also take time to crank back into gear. Airlines and tour operators can activate quickly, but we still don't know what travel rules people will face, nor where the virus hotspots will be.
We will have to re-learn how to holiday, in a sense: getting to grips with vaccination or travel passes, calculating how much testing will add to the cost of a trip and swotting up on health and safety guidelines, not to mind preparing for take-off (have you checked your passport's validity lately?).
But autumn could be another story. If the Taoiseach's June joy does indeed come to pass, then suddenly the prospect of an Indian summer looks very possible indeed.
Of course, this is the kind of crystal-ball-gazing that Covid loves to smash to smithereens. Nobody knows when international travel will restart. But looking to vaccination leaders like Israel, the UK and the US, there are tantalising clues as to what may happen in the near future here.
In the UK, travel bookings surged following early vaccine roll-outs, particularly among older people who were first in line for jabs.
Although talk of a May 17 resumption of holidays for Brits has been tempered by virus surges in Europe, Tourism Ireland's latest Covid-19 research shows that one third of vaccinated people there are planning or have booked a holiday. That increases to two thirds in the US.
Travel companies and destinations are starting to respond. Thailand says it will reopen Phuket to vaccinated travellers in July; Malta will do the same from June 1.
P&O, MSC, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are all planning summer cruises around the UK. All bar MSC will insist on adult guests being vaccinated, and MSC Virtuosa and Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas will include Belfast among their ports of call.
In Ireland, a recent survey of 125 consumers by travel insurer Allianz Partners saw 69pc of respondents say they were eager to travel once vaccinated. Pent-up demand is definitely there.
It's not just sunshine we crave. Irish ski operator Topflight has reported close to €10m of advance sales on its 2021/22 ski season, most of them new bookings, and is predicting "a very buoyant" winter ahead.
Interest and bookings to date "have been phenomenal", according to CEO Anthony Collins, which he credits to a desire for reunions and much-needed pampering.
parts of For now, travel agents are encouraging people to be cautious after last year's chaos, and it's essential to check for flexibility on any bookings and cancellations. Covid has made a mockery of predictions for a year, we all know the damage variants can do, the situation is flaming inEurope, and both departure and arrival destinations need to unlock for holidays to happen.
While countries like Greece, Cyprus and Turkey are adamant they will reopen to tourism in May, France is heading into another national lockdown and Italy is set to impose a temporary five-day quarantine for EU travellers - yet another cautionary tale.
If vaccinations go to plan and variants can be kept at bay, we might certainly see a wave of bookings start in summer. But it's far more likely to be autumn, winter or 2022 before we're actually sitting on a plane.
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