With the recent announcement from the Northern Ireland executive that all non-essential businesses must once again close – this time for two weeks, industry body ANITA have called on the executive to “take into consideration the further damage being caused to the outbound travel sector”.
Damian Murphy from Terra Travel, current Chairperson of the industry body said: “The travel industry in Northern Ireland finds itself once again forced to close and stop trading for a further two weeks. While we understand that decisions are taken based on saving lives we are frustrated at the stop start nature and the way this has affected the confidence of the travelling public.
“We are currently speaking to the executive about a funding package for our sector and we hope they will now take into consideration the further damage being caused to the outbound travel sector. We hope we at least qualify for the same support as others who are forced to close for these two weeks, but unfortunately this will cause even further pain and financial hurt for our already troubled industry.
“Going forward however, we can now at least see some light at the end of the tunnel and at least a bit of hope for travel in 2021. The announcement that a vaccine is now close to being available has led at least to more enquiries if not bookings so far.
“We hope that after Christmas the wave of hope we are seeing will continue and transmit to bookings for spring 2021 onwards. It is still vital that the executive see the enormity of the impact on our industry and any package they come up with is enough to see us through the affects of the pandemic. We know with the correct help and support we can once again flourish and return to the productive and successful industry we once were.”
Local travel business owners are urging the Executive to “step up to the mark and give assistance” to an industry whose survival “currently sits on a knife edge”.
Travel Solutions’ Peter McMinn said: ”The protection of our health service has to be our priority, but we urgently need the Executive to step up to the mark and give assistance to the travel sector who’s survival sits on a knife edge. We cannot continue to take a battering without help.
“The development of a vaccine is encouraging, but in reality it is likely that the vast majority of the population will not have access to it until well into 2021. We then need customer confidence to return quickly to see our sector start to earn money again. Very few business sectors have had to survive for sixteen months with virtually no income”.
And while travel agents brace themselves for the next blow, they remain dedicated to their customers and hopeful that the new vaccine will give people the confidence to travel.
Hazel Simpson of Limavady Travel: “Limavady Travel is a Western Union agent so can remain open for money transfer purposes during lockdown. Are we still able to service Travel Customers during this closure period? No one knows. We have bookings departing to the Canary Islands, which need to be checked in and the Spanish track and trace completed, do we abandon our customer service and let these customers fend for themselves?
“We are hopeful going into 2021 with the vaccine coming people will be more confident about travelling.”