But that was before Covid-19 turned everything upside down and Americans became objects of suspicion – unwanted intruders from a country that last week exceeded four million cases.Some restaurants and hotels have started turning down U.S. visitors in case they infect staff and other customers with coronavirus, a concern fueled by soaring infection rates in some U.S. states and the lax enforcement of quarantine in Ireland.
“It’s never a good business model to turn away visitors, but it’s not a business issue,” said Noel Keane, a chef who recently kicked out two groups of Americans from Croí restaurant in Tralee, in County Kerry. “From a moral point of view, this is the right thing to do.”
Potential diners admitted they did not self-isolate for 14 days after entering Ireland, prompting a rebuff, Keane said. ” I said no. There was no meanness. It is certainly not an anti-American sentiment.
Other companies have followed suit, some openly, others quietly.
JP McMahon, chef and owner of Cava Bodega in Galway, began interviewing tourists and firing those who admitted to violating quarantine after his staff felt “uncomfortable” serving a group from Texas.
Kings Head Pub in Galway and Gregan’s Castle Hotel in County Clare tweeted that they too had turned back Americans right off the plane.
Dublin’s Charleville Lodge has said it is banning American tourists – even those seeking quarantine in the hotel: “The government has advised foreign guests to ‘stay in your hotel or guesthouse’, this which means the government is happy to put my staff at risk by being in contact with these guests. It is not self-isolation. “
Other establishments may apply the same policy without advertising it.
Some Americans who phone hotels are being told there is no availability, said Guy Serbin, who runs a Facebook group for American expats in Ireland. “Then when their Irish partner calls, there are rooms.”
Americans living in Ireland have been clustered with tourists, said Serbein, 48, a Dublin-based entrepreneur. “I might see myself run into it if I try to book a hotel.”
As the pandemic rages on, Serbin doesn’t like American visitors either. “I don’t think Americans should travel anywhere.”
Proper checks at the airport and the enforcement of quarantine could avoid a cold shoulder, he said: “The government needs to apply this to immigration.”
Ireland is one of the few EU states to still admit Americans. Aer Lingus offers daily flights to Dublin from Boston, Chicago and New York. American Airlines flies from Dallas. Some 200 to 250 people disembark each day, a net compared to last year.
A condition of entry for visitors from the United States and most countries, including Great Britain, is self-isolate for 14 days. However, the application is patchy, a potential Achilles heel in Ireland’s successful suppression of the virus. Only 7% of passengers are contacted after arriving in Ireland to verify their location.
Anjuli Ponce, 28, a social worker from Pennsylvania who has lived in Ireland since 2019, said hotels and restaurants have a duty to protect staff and customers, but that she is worried about focusing on Americans. “Just because you have a certain accent, people assume you just got off the plane. It seems discriminatory. Sensitivities appear to be most marked in tourist spots outside of Dublin, Ponce said.
She worries about an upcoming trip to Donegal: “I don’t want people to be uncomfortable and don’t want to be confronted.”
But some say the Irish tourism industry risks alienating a vital market. “Here we say we want to get our industry back on track, but because you have a special accent we will not serve you,” said Tony McMahon, the owner of Bellissimo restaurant in Waterford. “If the right measures are in place, it is not for us to be judge and jury.”
Ireland will need American visitors after the pandemic, said Niall O’Callaghan, president of the Association of Visitor Experiences & Attractions. “We have to be very aware not to bite the hand that feeds us.”
Pat Dawson, managing director of the Irish Travel Agents Association, said Americans are noticing the drop in hospitality. “We have to be very careful how we deliver this message. They fill a lot of mouths with their dollars when they’re here.