Two days ago Dublin should have hosted a last-16 match in soccer's Euro 2020 finals. Fans thronging the capital would have added to the usual high-season influx of tourists, making the city a riot of colour and revelry. Pubs would have been packed, pints would have flowed and hotel rooms would have been impossible to find.
Things turned out very differently. Europe's quadrennial football tournament was postponed months ago. Instead of millions of foreign visitors pouring on to the island and spending billions, the nation's airports have been more like echoey mausoleums than the bustling hubs of humanity of times past. Ferries have been empty, apart from truckers hauling essential supplies.
The last time so few people arrived on these shores over a three-month period was probably during World War II, when people also risked their lives coming and going (Nazi submarines, not a virus, were what troubled travellers then).
The challenge now facing the tourism industry is difficult to overstate, as the 99pc collapse in arrivals shows. In May 2019, 1.8 million people landed at Irish airports and washed up at Irish ports, according to the CSO. This year there were only 28,000. Lockdown and something akin to a sealed border have, among other things, deprived businesses of their local and visiting customers.
The AIB's Purchasing Managers' Index of Services shows that travel, tourism and hospitality recorded the steepest fall in activity of any sector. About 90pc of workers in accommodation and food services are on Covid unemployment payments or are having their wages subsidised by the State - the highest rate of all the economy's big sectors.
The collapse is hardly surprising. Tourism relies on the congregation and movement of people - two of the worst spreaders of coronavirus. The UN World Tourism Organisation reckons that the number of international tourists globally could fall by 60-80pc in 2020, depending on how long restrictions last (and the predictions will be even worse if global normality has not pertained in January and February).
Major setbacks to tourism are not new. Health scares, terrorist attacks, volcanic ash clouds and recessions have clobbered the industry in the past. The fact that it has always rebounded (sooner or later) bodes well for the long term - our desire to travel appears to trump our fears, most of the time.
But this time is different. For comparison, arrivals to Ireland fell by only 0.4pc after the Sars virus outbreak in 2003 and by 4pc after the financial crisis in 2009 - mere blips compared with recent months.
Controls on cross-border travel will make tourism much more reliant on the domestic market. The existential question for many businesses will be whether 'staycations' can replace missing foreign tourists. Will swapping Benidorm for Bundoran save the Irish tourism industry?
Based on previous years, there is some cause for optimism. In 2019, Irish tourists spent more abroad (€7.1bn) than foreign tourists spent in Ireland (€5.2bn), according to international balance of payments data.
In many European countries, the balance was reversed, with incoming foreigners spending much more than departing nationals. The difference was biggest in the Mediterranean. Most countries in Europe's southern sunbelt have no hope of having domestic holidaymakers fill the gap created by northern Europeans staying home in colder and greyer climes.
A caveat about last year's data is that it was based on last year's economy. Lost earnings and employment will make many less willing, or unable, to take a holiday, whether at home or abroad. That means that everyone loses, one way or the other. Indeed, even if Covid was cured tomorrow, it would probably take until next year before travel and tourism could get back to normal.
Assuming that a miracle doesn't happen any time soon, people's holidaying preferences are going to change. There is likely to be a shift toward more remote areas over busier urban ones, making it possible - in a reversal of traditional fortunes - that businesses in the main cities will require more help than those in the sticks. On a positive note, Ireland's relatively low population density could be a good marketing tool as borders open up.
Tourism features prominently in the Programme for Government of the newly installed coalition. Business support is promised and there will be a campaign to promote staycations. A Tourism Recovery Taskforce composed of stakeholders is to report soon. No new minister is faced with a more daunting task than Catherine Martin, the woman at the Cabinet table tasked with overseeing the survival of the sector, along with responsibility for media, arts, culture, sport and the Gaeltacht.
One policy that has received some attention is a staycation voucher, which has been proposed by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation. Such schemes have been introduced in several countries, with the aim of stimulating domestic demand. There is logic to the proposal - economists worry that the recession will be deeper if too many people save their money instead of spending it. Getting people who have it to spend some of it would be good for everyone.
While the prospects for global tourism look bleak, proposed 'air bridges' or 'travel bubbles' between countries with low rates of new cases could be a way forward. Plans in the covid era are subject to change, but the current idea is that the Government will make a list of countries where people can travel to without 14-day quarantine on return. It will be co-ordinated on EU level. Yet the fact things can change quickly will make booking holidays riskier, and too risky for many.
Last week, then Taoiseach, now Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar appeared to be cautiously optimistic about foreign travel. He suggested that opening travel to other countries would have similar risk to travel between Irish counties. Medics have been more cautious. Like so much else in the world today, all those involved in tourism - as both consumers and providers - face uncertainty now, and for the foreseeable future.