Longford native believes 2021 American Football event could ‘kick start a recovery in Irish tourism’

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Longford native believes 2021 American Football event could ‘kick start a recovery in Irish tourism’

Longford town native Padraic O'Kane, pictured in his renowned Dublin restaurant, FIRE Steakhouse & Bar Picture: Twitter @Legacy_Comms

The Longford born business man involved in the promotion of Ireland's Aer Lingus College Football Classic between Navy and Notre Dame, which was due to take place this weekend, believes the 2021 event, assuming a coronavirus vaccine is found, could ‘kick start a recovery in tourism’.

Padraic O'Kane, in interviews with the Irish Times and the Saturday panel on Off The Ball, explained that the 2021 event would be expected to bring 25,000 high-spending visitors to Ireland from the US, with a total economic spin-off of €50 million.

As an investor in the series’ promoter, Irish American Events, Mr O'Kane said IAE is targeting a further 5,000 visitors drawn from the US diaspora in Europe, with the balance of the Aviva’s near-50,000 capacity coming from local sales.

He cautioned that it would be impossible to sell tickets and packages to US visitors now unless they were guaranteed refunds in the event of a Covid-related cancellation.

He said on OTB that without a Covid-19 vaccine, the game couldn't be played next year either. "That's to be fair and straight about it because of the amount of logistics involved in moving people from country to country."

Mr O'Kane said, “We have to get the conversation started now on terms and conditions for these visitors if we want them to book. We have to plan for post-Covid. We have begin planning now on the basis that the game is going ahead."

The former St Mel's College student, who is the owner of Dublin restaurants Fire and Sole, was critical of Government for the confusion caused by some 'last minute' anti-virus announcements.

“The Government and NPHET say they want collective action and that we are all in this together. But they can’t keep coming from NPHET meeting into a cabinet meeting, then straight into a press conference with new restrictions, without telling us what’s coming. There has to be some consultation. If they did, they would have industry buy-in. Instead, they have just created confusion.”

The CEO of hospitality and events specialists, Corporate.ie, Mr O'Kane, outlined that The Notre Dame versus Navy game scheduled for this weekend was virtually a sellout before the plug was officially pulled on it in June.

He said that event partners, including Aer Lingus, Grant Thornton the State’s tourism agencies and Dublin City Council, have all agreed to stick with it next year.

In 2018, Mr O'Kane returned to his home town and was one of the keynote speakers at a forum to discuss 'Longford Retail 2020-A Vision' and he told that gathering, “We are in a time of rapid change and we need to adapt."

He added, “When we opened Fire, our flagship restaurant in 2005, there was no such thing as a smart phone or social media, we had to do our best to get on the front pages of newspapers and build our business from there.”

Corporate.ie CEO Padraic O'Kane speaking to Off The Ball's Will O'Callaghan in October 2018 about plans to American Football to Ireland from August 2020