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Ireland announces 15-country “Green List” for quarantine-free travel; ELT sector calls for support against 80% revenue shortfall

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • The Irish government has moved to ease travel restrictions with the publication of a list of 15 countries – travellers from which will no longer need to undertake a mandatory quarantine on arrival in Ireland
  • Italy, the leading market for Irish ELT, is on the list but easing travel restrictions for this key sending country at this point in the year will do little to blunt the significant revenue and enrolment shortfalls projected for 2020
  • The peak body for the Irish ELT sector is calling for a broad package of government supports to help the industry weather the crisis

The Irish government announced an initial “Green List” of 15 countries last week. Travellers to Ireland from a Green List country may now enter the country without a mandatory quarantine period. Visitors, including students, from any countries not on the list are still required to undertake a mandatory 14-day isolation period.

The Green List is subject to regular review every fortnight. The initial Green List countries are: Malta, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece, Greenland, Monaco, San Marino, and Gibraltar.

The Department of the Taoiseach has set out more detailed travel guidelines for those arriving from Green List countries, as well as travellers arriving from countries not yet on the list.

The most notable distinction is the continuing requirement that arrivals from non-Green List states will have to quarantine for 14 days. Government officials, including Higher Education Minister Simon Harris, have stressed however that Ireland is ready to welcome international students. “Ireland is absolutely open to international students and there is no travel ban,” said Minister Harris, during a recent media availability. “But let’s be clear – if you’re coming to Ireland for any reason we expect you to self-isolate for two weeks.”

The ongoing review means that the composition of the Green List can be expected to change in the weeks ahead. For the moment, the most notable inclusion – from the point of view of international educators and the Irish ELT sector in particular – is Italy. Data from the peak body Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) highlights that Italy is reliably the leading sending market for Ireland’s language schools.

Too late for the peak season?

A recent analysis from MEI underscores the significance of easing restrictions for this key source market but highlights as well that the key summer season has largely been lost.

“The timing of the COVID-19 outbreak could not have been worse. From February onwards parents and students from all over the world began to cancel or postpone their plans to travel to Ireland this year. Some had saved for their long-term study abroad programme for up to two years. This was to be their life changing experience. Other students were travelling for the first time with school groups for a short stay English language and culture immersive programme. The sector relies entirely on international students and thus international travel. The high season, which usually begins in mid-February and runs to September, has dramatically and unequivocally been cancelled.”

MEI projects that industry revenues will decline by as much as 80% this year. Against the industry’s current annual enrolment base of 150,000 students, this will translate into a loss of between 100,000 and 120,000 students in 2020. The projected impact on the sector this year is further detailed in MEI’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan.

The plan highlights roughly 70% of sector revenues are booked in the peak season between March and September. “Normally, the monies generated during this period are used to fund the international sales and marketing campaigns that begin from September onwards,” says MEI. “Schools are now facing the double hit of having their profits wiped out for 2020 and no money to fund their sales and marketing for 2021.”

The Recovery Plan calls for a package of government supports, including wage and rent subsidies and student-friendly visa policies to help the industry rebuild through next year.

Before the pandemic, the sector’s economic contribution for 2020 was projected to have been nearly €1 billion. MEI reports a full-time employment base of 3,000 within Irish ELT and a further 7,000 seasonal and part-time staff.

For additional background, please see:


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