Less than a third of people in Northern Ireland plan to take a foreign holiday this year — despite the easing of restrictions on international travel from Monday.
lmost half say they will wait until 2022, while others intend to leave it even longer, according to a LucidTalk opinion poll for the Belfast Telegraph.
There is a notable age difference — with younger people more willing to head abroad in 2021.
But the overall findings will represent a blow for the travel industry, which had been banking on a summer dash to the airports as the Covid crisis eases.
Overseas travel has been hit hard by the pandemic — apart from a short window last summer and at Christmas, people have been told they should only travel to or outside of Northern Ireland for essential purposes.
But from today, a traffic light system for foreign travel will take effect.
Twelve countries are on Northern Ireland’s ‘green list’, meaning travellers do not need to quarantine on their return. Destinations include Portugal, Israel, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand.
However, today’s poll reveals many are still deeply reluctant to hop on a plane abroad any time soon.
People were asked, once vaccinated, when they would consider a foreign holiday.
Just 31% said they plan to head away in 2021 — 18% may travel this summer while another 13% would consider an overseas trip later in the year.
The vast majority (47%), said it would be next year before they think about going abroad.
Another 14% said it would be two or three years before a trip outside the UK or Ireland, while 2% have no plans to go overseas at any point.
The remaining 6% were unsure or had no firm opinion.
Fewer older people are willing to consider overseas travel this year. Just 22% would consider doing so — 8% this summer and 14% at any point this year.
More than half (51%) said it would be next year before they consider jetting off, while 17% would leave it two or three years.
By contrast, almost half (49%) of 18 to 24 year olds are considering heading overseas this year — with 25% hoping to get away in the next few months and 24% later in the year. Another 45% will leave it to 2022.
Broken down by gender, males of any age are more willing to take a trip abroad — 21% plan to do so this summer and a further 15% will at some point in 2021. Another 47% said it would be next year.
However, just over a quarter of females plan to holiday abroad in 2021 — 15% this summer and 11% this year. Some 48% plan to leave trips to 2022.
It comes as a public health expert from Belfast warned against summer holidays — despite the traffic light system for foreign travel.
Professor Gabriel Scally told holidaymakers to “beware” and also warned it is “irresponsible” to travel to other countries while potentially infected with a dangerous variant.
Prof Scally, a member of independent Sage, said: “The regional director of the World Health Organization in Europe issued a statement in the last couple of days saying there shouldn’t be international travel and I would agree with that.
“It is undesirable to have people holidaying in international resorts at this time for all sorts of reasons.
“It isn’t necessarily safe to travel on airplanes, there was a flight between India and Hong Kong and there were 52 infections and they were only picked up because of quarantine in Hong Kong.
“Flights are difficult, but it isn’t just the flights, it’s what happens at arrivals and departures with queues of people in restricted spaces.
“You also have lots of people from different countries mixing together at foreign resorts.
“If you think back a year, the virus came to the UK and Republic of Ireland by people returning from holidays.”
He continued: “It’s important to remember that the vaccine isn’t the cure all.
“There’s always the risk posed by variants and it’s irresponsible to go off to another country and potentially take a dangerous variant with you.”
Prof Scally also criticised the traffic light system, saying: “We need a proper managed quarantine system for everyone arriving into the country.”
The Department of Health and the Executive were contacted for comment.
Yesterday an airline industry chief said people who have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine should not face restrictions when travelling to countries on the Government’s amber list.
Willie Walsh, director-general of airline body Iata, said people should be allowed to make up their own minds about the risks of travelling to amber list destinations if they have received their jabs.
Those returning from countries on the Government’s amber list must quarantine at home for 10 days and take pre-departure and post-arrival tests.
But Mr Walsh, who is the former chief executive of IAG — the parent company of British Airways — said amber restrictions should be the same as those for green list countries for fully vaccinated passengers.
He told the Mail on Sunday: “People were promised the benefit of being vaccinated — a vaccine dividend — and they should be given it.
“I think if you’ve had both shots then there’s no argument you can make to say those restrictions can remain in place, and people should be free to decide for themselves if they see any risk in travelling to a green or amber country,” the former IAG chief executive added.