Agents in Ireland have met with the Irish government’s transport committee to plead for sector-specific help.
The Irish Travel Agents Association told Ireland’s joint committee on transport and communications help was needed now as it was “increasingly unlikely that international travel will resume in 2021”, with early 2022 now looking more feasible.
ITAA chief executive Pat Dawson and board member Paul Hackett told the committee agents were prevented from trading but must stay open to refund and rebook clients.
“The Association are asking for tailored business support… in response to the unusual and unique position they are in,” the ITAA said.
The ITAA said agents were entitled to the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme from Level 4, which the ITAA said was “inadequate as it fails to address the unique issues faced by the Irish travel industry”.
“CRSS does not support the downturn in business caused by government restrictions on International travel but instead is directly linked to the levels in the Covid framework; however, travel agents are prevented from trading, irrespective of the levels and have been since March 2020,” it said.
Dawson added: “Irish travel agents are responsible and always put the safety and comfort of our consumers first, however if international travel is to come to an indefinite halt, business supports are urgently required to ensure that we can reopen once again when the threat of Covid-19 has passed.
“We need 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 hope that the committee has taken our submissions on board and that this will lead to increased supports for our members and customers.”
The ITAA is also seeking protection for customers over flight refunds. It said many consumers were refused refunds on the basis flights went ahead contrary to government advice on non-essential travel.
“These ‘ghost flights’ have been an issue since the beginning of the pandemic and affect both consumers and travel agents alike when it comes to refunds. Consumer protection is a top priority for all Irish travel agents, therefore the ITAA would like the government to take further action on this matter on behalf of consumers,” the ITAA said.