The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) is calling on the Government to take steps to support the Irish travel industry by ensuring that travel agents are protected in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. As pressure mounts for a ban on non-essential travel between EU member states, the ITAA want to see the travel sector treated fairly with long-term supports put in place for Irish travel agents.
The Association have been seeking to meet with the Department of Transport, Minister Hildegarde Naughton and Minister Eamon Ryan for some time now in order to discuss supports needed for travel agents in the coming months. Travel agents in Ireland are currently among the worst affected sector of SME’s in the country, receiving temporary CRSS supports under Level 5 restrictions only. Many travel agents faced huge financial pressure to stay open last year; therefore tailored, long-term supports are vital for the remainder of 2021.
The Association believes that the CRSS scheme is only useful on a short-term basis, as it will have to be repaid by travel agents when things begin to return to normal. The travel industry is in a unique situation wherein travel agencies have had to remain open throughout the pandemic to assist customers with refunds and rescheduling disrupted bookings, therefore the ITAA believe that by excluding travel agents from CRSS under Level 3 restrictions, this Government has blatantly discriminated against the industry.
ITAA CEO Pat Dawson stated: “The travel industry has been forced into lockdown for an indefinite period of time due to the outbreak of COVID-19. While we have had platitudes and promises from Government, there have been no significant supports offered to keep travel agents afloat throughout the course of the pandemic. We still have to pay rents and salaries, as we are in the unique position where we had to remain open in order to provide day-to-day assistance to our customers. Some sectors have received tailor-made assistance and grants and we would like to see travel agents treated in the same way, as we are one of the sectors which have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.”
He continued: “Our number one priority has always been the health and safety of our customers, our staff and our communities. We want to be responsible, follow medical advice and work with Government to save lives, but we also need to preserve our businesses so that we can resume operations when it is safe to do so. We are calling on the Government to make a clear decision on this, so that we can begin to rebuild our industry.”