The ITAA is seeking assistance from the Government to aid travel agents in post-Covid recovery, reports Shauna McCrudden
The travel industry is going through a crisis at the moment. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all aspects, from small, seasonal businesses to large airlines. But the sector has been drastically impacted by the pandemic.
Since March 2020 the industry is down by 98%, and there are currently 250,000 jobs at risk in the tourism sector, which is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry. The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) have voiced their concerns regarding the impact that the crisis is having on travel agents throughout the country, and are calling for assistance from the Government to help repair some of the damage to the industry.
“Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the travel industry has been forced into lockdown for an indefinite period of time,” says ITAA CEO Pat Dawson. “We want to work with the Government to save lives and keep our families, our staff, our clients and our communities safe, but we also need to preserve our businesses, so that we can resume operations when it is safe to do so.”
The ITAA has participated in ongoing meetings with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport since the beginning of the crisis in March. They also met with Minister Hildegarde Naughton TD in July, and the Association put forward a business support submission outlining the current situation of the Irish travel sector.
Pat continues, “Consumer protection is our top priority. Currently, there are thousands of clients who have booked to travel for the rest of 2020 whose bookings need to be rescheduled or refunded. Plus, there are the thousands who are still waiting for refunds from earlier in the year, which we are chasing and monitoring constantly. Travel agents provide an essential service to our consumers. If we are not there, this responsibility will fall to the Commission for Aviation Regulation.”
Although the Irish travel industry has remained active since March, the ITAA says this is no longer sustainable without additional support from the Government. Travel agents have had to remain open to serve customers with cancellations, refunds and rebooking holidays. These companies could not close down even though they were effectively blocked from trading.
If additional supports are not made available, there will be a widespread collapse in the industry, with many companies closing resulting in job losses and subsequent impacts on consumers.
Let’s hope there is extra support for the Irish travel sector as it is largely comprised of family-run businesses. Irish travel agents employ roughly 3,500 people in towns and cities across the country, including employees in rural Ireland, the majority of whom are at risk of long-term unemployment unless immediate action is taken.
As travel writers, we see and report on the pain, but also the heroic stories of those travel agents, hotels and businesses working at the coal face. And we will continue to do so at Travel Extra until the situation is resolved.
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