The Brendan O'Connor Show on Auti, Radio one with all care pharmacy discover a team that's always here to support you at all care taking care of communities across Ireland.
Paul Okonedo, Irish independent travel editor, joins me now. Paul, good morning. Hiya, Brendan. How you keeping?
I'm good, Paul. Remember do you remember Charles Rabson, the founder of Revlon Cosmetics? Do you remember the famous quote by him? He said something along the lines of We make cosmetics, but we sell hope. So you and me are going to talk about travel. No, but I feel really what you do is you sell a little bit of hope anyway.
So, yeah, well, it's an it's important advantage in order to realised just before I come on to it's a year to the weekends since I was on a plane today.
Wow, that's a it's a very first world anniversary in reality, but I feel I feel your pain. I remember being in February coming back from the canary's where there had been a Saharan sandstorm.
And I remember we were the only people on the plane wearing masks. I had searched long and hard for some masks before I went away thinking I get in early on masks. I went into every as they were like, you joking masks are gone. But we were the only people on the plane.
Listen, anyway, speaking of being back on planes again. So on one hand, there's momentum building around this concept of a vaccine passport to travel border. But it is a tricky one, isn't it?
All very much so. I felt like this week the vaccine passport debate really kind of took off. It felt like it got serious. You had Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, announcing this week that Europe is looking at what it's calling a digital green pass. That would whether that would look like a sort of a QR code on your smartphone or whether it would be an app or whether it be a paper certificate.
They said that they were hopeful in the next couple of months, three to four months, that that if that could be rolled out in Europe, it could allow people to get back to travel and to get back to work. And it was the first time sort of in Europe, a single standardised version of this has been mooted in the same week we saw Royal Caribbean, the cruise company, say that it's going to run fully vaccinated cruises out of gas for Israel, who will, as we all know, is charging ahead with its vaccine programmes.
And it has launched a green passport itself. So citizens who live in Israel who have been vaccinated can use this now not just to travel, but to get into restaurants or entertainment or, you know, in the future go to matches and things like that. And it just feels like all of these things coming together. You also probably saw that Greece and Cyprus are talking to Israel about creating that concept. We talked about last year, tourism bubble. Spain has mentioned that it's insulting to the U.K. also circulating talking to the UK.
So suddenly this has picked up pace and it feels like it could go a couple of different ways. One is that we could end up all having a similar vaccine passport on our phone. And the other is that it's just the Wild West all over again and everybody goes their own way. And you need this to get to that country. And the other thing to get to the next country and something else entirely when you're coming back.
So that's kind of where it lies at the moment.
Yeah, I'd say more. More. The latter is probably more likely now. And like I heard was a guy from Cyprus last night saying, yeah, I look at people from the UK can come in if they have they have a test or they have a vaccine, passport or whatever.
Yeah. They can call me. I mean, I think there's a level of desperation in some of these countries that we possibly don't understand where they're saying, look, we need to we need to get tourism going. I see Eddie Wilson from Ryanair said that it would be unrealistic to expect the EU to have its kind of system in place for for this summer.
I tend to agree with that. I just think something as complex as this requiring so many people to get on the same page so quickly, like we saw with the traffic light system last year, how long that took to get in place and now heard anybody talking about that. And then you have the vaccine rollouts are going at different paces in different countries. I mean, we only have to look across the border to see that ourselves. You have stuff like data protection issues, the security of us.
This is very different to the all the yellow cards that you might have squirrelled away in your passport and in the drawer at home where you might have gotten a yellow fever vaccination to go to a certain country in sub-Saharan Africa. Let's say this is we're talking about sort of a universal thing that everybody needs to carry to travel. And you rightly mentioned at the top there, it is controversial because not everybody is going to be vaccinated at the same time and not everybody is going to be vaccinated.
People for health reasons or might choose not to be vaccinated. It's not mandatory. So suddenly, are we looking at a situation where I've got rid of some kind.
Yeah. Or some or division or different freedom of movement. So that all has to play out. So that's why I don't think in June or July we're all going to be lining up at the airport with vaccine passports.
OK, listen. So look, one way or another, then restrictions be with us for a while and travel.
But you're predicting that when when we do start travelling again and you're saying this is what's happening anyway to be a complete change of mindset around travel anyway, I think the longer we go on with our travelling, the more probable this is.
And I was thinking about it as this anniversary came around and that I haven't been out of the country. For a year and a lot of other people in the same situation, and I feel like how long does it take to break a habit?
You know, couple of weeks and months, a year? Certainly this is a habit that's been smashed. And I've sort of looking at travel in a different way now. I feel like I took it for granted. I feel like it was a privilege. I'm really looking forward to getting back to it. And I feel like people are sort of thinking the same thing. I wonder, was 2019 a peak for a certain kind of mass tourism where we could take, you know, lucky people could take several city breaks or a sudden holiday and maybe a ski holiday in a year?
And are we going to flip back to a place where travel is more difficult to organise, possibly more expensive, but we want to get the trips rice.
And so like a meaningful Christmas, we'd be having more meaningful travel than maybe it was.
Yeah, but hopefully that will work. Or just.
Yeah, but it doesn't have to be, say, an expensive safari or a once in a lifetime trip to Australia. I think. Think about the hobbies you might have taken up and knock down. Look, if you're painting would you think about I'll do a painting holiday in Tuscany with the sun on my back. Or if you've been watching the birds in your garden, would you do a weekend in an ash bag in West Cork or would you go to somewhere exotic to see birds if you've been see swimming?
There's a company called Swim Track that organises swimming holidays in the Mediterranean. But what I keep coming back to myself is that if I had one more holiday I could take or one more trip, I would want to guess. I love these sort of remote house somewhere. And I was remembering a holiday I had in Brittany not too long ago with my family and with the grandparents where the little it was a sort of quiet, sleepy village with with flowers tumbling down the walls.
And the boulangerie was just a two minute walk away. And I'd get up early in the morning and walk down the street and carry back the warm bread to the table. And we'd all just sort of break ups and after breakfast and then figure out what would we do for the day. And that would cost more than a cheap package holiday or a cheap city break. But just that notion of being surrounded by that Frenchness and that the accents and the different atmosphere, it just made me feel almost kind of sad when I was thinking about it.
But that's the kind of thing I mean, that I would value that in a in a whole new way. Do you feel that?
Yeah, absolutely. Funny. There's a picture at home that the kids keep going back to these kind of burnt cross that we used to get new furniture. This little place we stayed in in Italy and we grew up in the morning and yeoman like there was no sign over the door, you know, those little things. And we found this place then and everything was a euro, basically like and, you know, he would grunter me and I'd granted him we'd figured out that idea of going somewhere.
But actually experiencing the place is probably something that had been growing anyway. Like like, you know, I'm as bad as anyone else. I've this wanting to be authentic when you go on holidays and not doing the touristy things and trying to find the, you know, the little hole in the wall where the locals didn't have a drink and stuff, that that's kind of a thing now, isn't it? Or I think so.
I think that it's we had two different things. You had that growing. Yes. But you also had this concept of over tourism where there was just too many people going to the same places at the same time. And we saw destinations like Fairness and Dubrovnik and Santorini literally come to the point of collapse. Now, it seems like a kind of a luxurious problem now, but I think as we look forward to when we realise how our money affects local communities, we want to have those authentic experiences.
And also we realise that tourism, it has to support communities year round.
And it can't just be about such that this notion of drive through tourism, where people fly through on a bus, see the site and drive out again or you know, what kind of tourism that drives up the prices of houses. For locals, it has to be a model of tourism that brings communities along and that creates jobs that last year round. And I think now that all of travel has stopped, it's like a tide has kind of washed out.
And the flaws with how we had been travelling have been exposed. And now is a good time to reimagine it. And Ireland is really, really good at this sort. Saw the Burn Eco Tourism Network was named as one of your Lonely Planet's top 30 travel experiences and people and places for the year this year there they well ahead of the curve in terms of this. We have we're not a cheap place to come and travel travelling, but we do offer that kind of tourism.
So I think this is the perfect time to dream it all up again.
Yeah, yeah. You know, the word that comes to mind when you talk about the burn and stuff like that, it's texture, isn't it? Like, that's what I. We're going somewhere else is the texture of of the place, the texture of everything, the texture of of life.
And when the kids are smaller, you know, I was in like, you know, all in places with seven pools or whatever, but now being able to kind of get beyond that, you realise, OK, I wasn't actually abroad.
I was somewhere sunny where I was in a compound. Like getting that texture of somewhere else is kind of magical. Venice is kind of looking at reimagining, isn't it? Yeah, they are, absolutely.
And I mentioned it as a real pinch point destination. So they're figuring out how can they stop all of this endless day tripping traffic. You know, they've looked at everything from charging tourists at the gates as they came in. But they really need to.
The whole thing here is you need people to stay overnight and spend locally and immerse themselves in that kind of local experience Copenhagen had been looking at. New Zealand has been looking at how to dream it all up again because it's had no overseas visitors, no more than ourselves for a year. And it's trying to get people this summer to spread themselves away from the beauty spots that everybody takes selfies at and go and explore somewhere new. So I think we can learn from all of those places.
Look, that notion you said about the pool and the sun and the package that's affordable, that won't go away and that'll always have a role. But I think that notion of texture and has a gorgeous water to use for us definitely needs to come into it more to know.
Listen, I you know, I already say things here and I don't I don't have to always have time to think it right through. Right. But somebody pointing out to me, Brenda, and you said there's a level of desperation in tourism in Cyprus that we don't understand. We in the Irish tourism sector do understand we're desperate. And that's that's not fair point, Texas.
So like Paul, to get back to the reality of things for a minute now, we waffle on about the texture of far from places for a long time. But we're going to be holidaying at home this summer, presumably most of us. So, yeah, you're writing about that today in terms of just let's be practical for a minute there a few practical kind of tips that you're offering today about kind of. Yeah. How to go about booking your staycation.
And our tourism industry, as your caller rightly said, needs our support without overseas video, our visitors or festivals or events, and hopefully July and August, maybe a little earlier, we'd be able to get out and do that. But we all want value and we all want affordability, too. So I was looking at the best ways to do this. And just a couple of quick practical tips. If you're searching around for staycation, the first thing is that, by all means, search on those big websites or pick up the phone and call the hotel or the self-catering direct the big websites charge about 15 percent commission.
But if you get on the phone, you'll often get be able to split that discount between yourself and the hotel. But then also you're in a better position to ask for packages for included dinner, an activity or a percentage of a local experience or tour or something like that, because hotels and self-catering want to talk to you directly because it obviously builds up a relationship to.
The other thing is to try to think about the time this millions of us with kids in school that are going to try and shoehorn a break into the eight weeks, July and August. But for those who can travel, the last week of August looks good because it's straddled over when people start going back to school. Also, I think September, when more people are vaccinated and the kids are back to school, is going to be a real sweet spot because the prices will drop at that point as well.
And I one other thought I had. Yeah. And if the self-catering you have your eye on is full, give them a bell and ask the owner what they put you on a waiting list, because there are still people from Germany, France, Spain, wherever it may be, that have booked holidays in Ireland for this year or postponed last year's bookings to this year. And the cancellations haven't yet come June. So when they have to cancel, they then you'll be top of the list for them to call.
OK, Paula Canny, Irish Independent travel manager. I always feel slightly enriched, slightly wistful after our conversations. I talk to you soon and we'll have more good news. Thank you very much, Paul.
Text five one five five one. Brendan O'Connor on our TV, radio one.