No plan survives contact with the enemy, as the old war cliché goes.
ow, over a month since Irish tourism began reopening, we’re getting a view of how Fáilte Ireland’s Covid-19 guidelines are holding up. The messy reality of daytrips, staycations and dining out in a pandemic is on full display.
It’s been brilliant and baffling, reaffirming and unnerving.
Hand sanitiser, Plexiglass and yellow social-distancing stickers are widespread. I’m in awe of the hotels and restaurants that have reopened – at the expensive and unimaginable changes they’ve had to make.
But I’m also seeing a wide variation in how guidelines are interpreted.
In one hotel, room cleaning was by request. In another, it happened as normal. In one sit-down café, staff wiped down a pen and asked me to add my contact details to a book. In another, nobody took any details.
In several restaurants, I’ve felt reassured by staff wearing visors or masks, and tables were beautifully spaced out.
In others, no staff wore coverings, despite closely interacting with customers, tables and each other (the Restaurants Association of Ireland has called for staff to wear coverings where food is served, but they’re not obliged to).
I’ve had a super, socially-distanced surf lesson and gallery visits. But at one family-friendly park, despite hire bikes being sanitised between uses, customers were allowed to crowd together, handle bikes at will, and staff mingled with them without face masks or gloves.
Throw in Ireland’s ‘green list’ and ongoing overseas travel confusion, and you have a mad month of mixed messages.
Reopening was never going to be smooth. Businesses are under the cosh, and different customers have different comfort levels. I get all that.
But we’ve also had several weeks to watch and learn.
Most Irish tourism and hospitality businesses have not yet completed Fáilte Ireland’s Safety Charter. Cases have ticked up.
We Irish aren’t great at giving feedback, but we’ll tell the world after we leave – and there’s a lot of word of mouth going on right now.
In another bistro, I watched staff wear masks, but pull them down when talking closely with each other. I felt frustrated, but later thought – well, at least they are wearing masks. And the café had clearly put time and thought into the one-way systems and distancing in place.
With one month of summer left, now is not the time to be judgy. Now is the time to learn from what works, give open feedback and push for consistency.
Dealing with customers can be like herding cats at the best of times, but if we don’t trust the systems, get clear guidelines and see them consistently implemented, we will simply do our own thing, tell our friends, or be less likely to venture out.
And Irish tourism needs us to venture out.
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