The ITAA believes clearing the backlog now will allow for faster recovery for both the inbound and outbound travel sector, writes Shauna McCrudden
With the prospect of international travel resuming this summer, the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), which represents Ireland’s travel Industry, is calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs to reopen the Passport Office to process outstanding passport applications in order to avoid a backlog of applications. The Passport Office paused much of its operations late last December.
The ITAA believes that this service is essential and that clearing the backlog now will allow for faster economic recovery in terms of restarting inbound and outbound tourism. The Association is calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs to reopen the Passport Office with immediate effect, in order to facilitate a smooth return to travel when it is safe to do so.
ITAA CEO Pat Dawson said, “The ITAA is asking for clarification from the Department of Foreign Affairs on this issue, because we want to do what is best for our customers during this extremely stressful time. There is a pent-up demand for travel. People have been through enough during this year in lockdown, and these passport delays will only be another obstacle in the way of things returning to normal.
“This delay in passport renewals will also further impact our industry, as it will take at least two months to clear the backlog. Customers who want to book holidays after the quarantine is lifted will be forced to wait for their passport application to be approved. The system will be overwhelmed by the backlog in passport renewals and applications, and this will drastically slow the economic recovery of the travel sector both at home and abroad.”
Passport applications and renewals can still be made through Passport Online and requests will be processed when the service resumes, however, the Department of Foreign Affairs has advised against posting supporting documents to Embassies and Consulates at this time. Passports are still being made available to those who need a passport for travel in a genuine emergency. But the current service is available only for those who are required to travel due to the death or serious illness of a family member or under other criteria for a reasonable excuse for non-essential travel.
Pat added, “We are calling on our Government to establish a clear plan for reopening inbound outbound tourism, so that we can begin to return to normal. These plans must be put in place now, as they will take time to roll out and we need to be well prepared in order to safely resume international travel. The prospect of vaccine passports, certification within EU countries, all of these things must be considered and planned for now, in order to facilitate a safe and smooth return to travel when the immediate threat of Covid-19 has subsided.”
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