Agents in Northern Ireland are set to benefit from new grants set out by the country’s executive on Thursday (11 March).
Flat payments of £10,000 will be available to agents operating from commercial premises, and £3,500 to self-employed agents working from home.
Agents will have a week to apply for grants, starting 19 March.
First minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill said the support scheme was necessary to ensure the "continued viability" of the country’s travel agency sector.
Abta has welcomed the move, which it said recognised the "massive impact" the pandemic has had on travel agency businesses.
It follows a similar pledge by the Scottish government earlier this year; Abta has said it will continue to push for similar measures in England and Wales.
The Northern Ireland executive said the funds would help "vulnerable but viable travel agents", including self-employed homeworkers, with costs arising from: reopening or keeping their business operational; the cost of reconnecting with employees and customers, and adapting customer marketing; and the cost of any necessary financial planning.
The scheme will be launched on 19 March and will be open for applications for just one week through to 26 March. Links to the scheme will be available next week to allow businesses to plan.
Agents operating from commercial premises must have been operating from 5 March 2020 to 12 March 2021 inclusive, intend to continue operating, and have suffered financial hardship as a travel agent as a result of the pandemic to be eligible.
The same criteria, with an additional proof of working from home as a self-employed agent clause, apply to non-retail agents.
Agencies with multiple premises can apply for grants per branch, the executive confirmed.
“A viable travel agents industry is critical to support a return to normal and build confidence that travel agents and other retail businesses will continue to be a feature of our high streets," said Foster.
O’Neill added: "Given the necessary limitations on travel, there has been a severe impact on the travel industry, including travel agents.
"The Travel Agents Scheme will provide in the region of £1.175 million of much-needed support. In what will be a very challenging environment going forward, this funding will help travel agents facing financial difficulties to continue operating and help to protect jobs."
Abta’s director of public affairs Luke Petherbridge praised the efforts of its Save Future Travel coalition partners, particularly the Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents, for their lobbying efforts.
"We have been lobbying hard for Northern Ireland’s travel sector to receive specific financial support in light of the massive impact that the pandemic has had on their businesses, with international travel having been severely limited or banned for the past 12 months," said Petherbridge.
"This is positive news for travel agents – retail or homeworkers – who will now be able to access this additional funding ahead of the travel sector reopening."
Abta added: "The scheme follows on from the announcement of the Scottish government, which introduced a travel agents scheme in January. Abta has confirmed it will continue to call for similar measures across England and Wales."