In an exclusive interview with ITTN following his meeting with Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Responsible for International Travel, Hildegarde Naughton, ITAA CEO Pat Dawson said he was “happy enough” with the meeting but said there was “a long way to go” before the travel industry would come out of this unprecedented crisis.
Speaking to ITTN’s Sharon Jordan, Mr Dawson said he didn’t think the ministers realised how bad it was and how bad it is at the moment. “We didn’t go in with any preconceived idea that they were going to come forward with a package for us,” he said, but that the ministers “have gone away to think about the different aspects we put to them.” He also added that there might be further developments following meetings with the various government departments next week.
In a separate statement following the meeting, the ITAA said the delegation, headed up Mr Dawson, ITAA president Michael Doorley and fellow board members Clare Dunne, Valerie Metcalffe and Paul Hackett, made a strong case for a bespoke business support package and laid out the dire dire impact the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions were having on the outbound Irish travel industry and were called upon to provide improved Government supports for Irish travel agents.
The ITAA delegation emphasised the urgent need for a bespoke response for travel agents with specific financial supports put in place as a consequence of being closed on public health grounds linked to international travel since the beginning of the pandemic. The Association are calling for tailored business supports for the travel industry in response to the unusual and unique position they are in, in order to protect the travel industry and facilitate a smooth and safe return to business when international travel can finally resume.
“Despite being recognised as the industry ‘hardest hit’ by the pandemic, there has been no bespoke financial assistance given to Irish travel agents.” Pat Dawson
The ITAA has stated that while the travel industry has continued to reschedule bookings to late 2021 to keep pace with fluctuating travel restrictions, a return to international travel this year is unlikely, which will lead to further cancellations in the latter half of 2021 and early 2022 and no income for travel agents. Currently, travel agents are in receipt of the EWSS, and are entitled to CRSS from Level 4 which the ITAA feel is 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.
“Despite being recognised as the industry ‘hardest hit’ by the pandemic,” Mr Dawson said, “there has been no bespoke financial assistance given to Irish travel agents. Whilst we appreciate the schemes that the Government has put in place, there is no differentiation between businesses that have been able to open for intermittent periods, businesses which are down only 30% (for EWSS) and 75% (for CRSS), and travel agents who have been down 90% consistently since March 2020 with no respite.
He continued, “Irish travel agents are responsible and always put the health and safety of our customers first, however if we are prevented from trading as a direct result of restrictions, then we urgently require tailored business supports to ensure that we are in a position to open once again when the threat of COVID-19 has passed. We are calling for 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 are working hard on behalf of all licensed travel agents to highlight the issues faced by our industry and come to an agreement on supports for Irish travel agents.”