The organisers of annual Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival have confirmed that a decision on this year’s event has yet to be made.
Marcus White, Managing Director of the White hotel group said: “We haven’t made a decision yet – we are waiting to see how things develop now that the country has begun to reopen again. We hope that that the government will start easing social distancing restrictions once it is safe to do so in the coming weeks.”
“Our first priority is the safety of our staff, the people attending the festival and all the performers. Under current government regulations we couldn’t run the festival with a two metre social distancing in place. It would be impossible in a place like Lisdoonvarna, where pubs are crowded and intimate dancing is one of the main attractions.” he said,
Even if the government reduce social distancing to one metre it wouldn’t work in Lisdoonvarna, either from a safety point of view or economically Mr White said.
“We have to be realistic; Lisdoonvarna is successful because of the sheer volume of people that flock here every year and fill the town, and creates €2.5 million revenue for the whole of north Clare.
Mr White said that last year’s festival was the biggest event ever with over 80,000 people in the village and this years had been set to be even bigger.
“People still want to come and the enquiries are flooding in – there has been a huge surge in the numbers of people looking at our social media over lockdown and press enquiries from all over the world. The country music stars Nathan Carter, Derek Ryan, Mike Denver and Cliona Hagan are still booked and looking forward to performing at the festival.
Mr White said that while it was positive news that hotels can resume trading at the end of June, it was unlikely he would reopen his hotels then.
“The majority of our business comes from outside Ireland. Last year we brought in 255,000 bed nights into the country from overseas which in turn supports airlines, hotel companies like the Dalata group as well as a host of smaller tourism ventures across Ireland.”
“Last week, we were contacted by a large European tour operator who wants to bring groups into Ireland in August, September and October this year and for 2021. This is good news and signs that things are moving in the right direction.”
“However one of their requirements is that visitor centres like the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson distillery would have to be open to full capacity to make these tours viable. At the moment we have no clarification if these centres will be able to accommodate large group bookings. If they can’t then these tours simply won’t work.” he said.
Another deterrent to tourism this year he said that the Irish government is currently advising against non-essential travel into Ireland, with a 14 day quarantine for anyone who has travelled outside the country.
“I believe like many others in the tourism industry that imposing the two week quarantine is totally unworkable. One suggestion that has been mooted is an Airbridge between countries with low infection rates such as Germany Portugal, Norway would be a way of stimulating the economy and getting more tourism into Ireland. Overseas tourism brings in over €5.6 billion revenue annually and will be vital to our economic recovery here”
“The next few weeks will be crucial and hopefully the government will come up with a package to support tourism in Ireland and reduce the €6.1 billion exchequer benefit created by the Covid 19 crisis” he concluded.