“Despite being recognised as the industry ‘hardest hit’ by the pandemic, there has been no bespoke financial assistance given to Irish travel agents.”
hat was the message delivered to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Minister Hildegarde Naughton this week by a delegation from the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA).
The ITAA represents over 100 travel agents responsible for some 3,500 jobs in Ireland. It met Ministers to discuss “urgent business supports” for a sector whose members have grown increasingly angry in recent weeks at the “dire impact” of the pandemic and travel restrictions on their businesses.
“Irish travel agents are responsible and always put the health and safety of our customers first,” said Pat Dawson, CEO of the Association.
“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.”
The Department of Transport said Ministers acknowledged “the particularly difficult situation facing the travel industry” at the Tuesday meeting, “especially with the prospects for this summer looking less favourable than everyone might have hoped for before Christmas”.
“The Ministers assured the Association that the Government was fully committed to continuing to provide financial support right across the economy, and that it would be reviewing the current range of supports in the coming weeks to consider what was needed to keep those supports working through the rest of this year.”
Travel agents are in “an unusual and unique position”, the ITAA added, having continued to reschedule bookings in line with travel restrictions while taking little or no income.
“Currently, travel agents are in receipt of the EWSS (Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme), and are entitled to CRSS (Covid Restrictions Support Scheme) from Level 4, which the ITAA feels is inadequate as it fails to address the unique issues faced by the Irish travel industry,” Mr Dawson said.
“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 30pc (for EWSS) and 75pc (for CRSS), and travel agents who have been down 90pc consistently since March 2020 with no respite.”