The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has called for improved government supports for travel agents.
The ITAA met with transport minister Eamon Ryan and international travel minister Hildegarde Naughton this week to make a case for and discuss a bespoke business support package for the Irish travel industry.
The ITAA delegation was headed up by ITAA president Michael Doorley, ITAA CEO Pat Dawson, and ITAA board members Clare Dunne, Valerie Metcalffe and Paul Hackett.
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During the meeting, the ITAA delegation told the ministers about the dire impact that the continuing COVID-19 pandemic is having on the outbound Irish travel industry and called upon them to provide improved government supports for Irish travel agents.
The ITAA delegation said that a bespoke response with specific financial supports is needed for travel agents as a consequence of travel agencies being closed due to COVID-19-related health and safety business restrictions.
The ITAA stated that tailored business supports are required for the travel industry to protect the industry and facilitate a smooth and safe return to business when international travel is able to resume.
The ITAA also stated that while the travel industry has continued to reschedule bookings to late 2021 to keep pace with fluctuating travel restrictions, a return to international travel this year is unlikely, which will lead to further cancellations in the latter half of 2021 and early 2022, and no income for travel agents.
Currently, travel agents are in receipt of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), and are entitled to the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) from level four, which the ITAA said is inadequate as it fails to address the unique issues that are being faced by the Irish travel industry.
According to the ITAA, the CRSS does not support the downturn in business caused by COVID-19-related health and safety business restrictions on international travel, but rather is directly linked to the levels in the COVID-19 framework, however, travel agents are prevented from trading, irrespective of the levels.
ITAA CEO Statement
ITAA CEO Pat Dawson stated, "Despite being recognised as the industry 'hardest hit' by the pandemic, there has been no bespoke financial assistance given to Irish travel agents. Whilst we appreciate the schemes that the government has put in place, there is no differentiation between businesses that have been able to open for intermittent periods, businesses which are down only 30% (for EWSS) and 75% (for CRSS), and travel agents who have been down 90% consistently since March 2020 with no respite.
"Irish travel agents are responsible and always put the health and safety of our customers first, however, if we are prevented from trading as a direct result of restrictions, then we urgently require tailored business supports to ensure that we are in a position to open once again when the threat of COVID-19 has passed. We are calling for a bespoke response with specific supports as a consequence of being closed for over a year on public health grounds linked to international travel. We are working hard on behalf of all licensed travel agents to highlight the issues faced by our industry and come to an agreement on supports for Irish travel agents."
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