The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) is deeply concerned by the current Covid-19 crisis and the impact it is having on member travel agents and their customers, and is strongly urging the government to draw up a support plan for the country’s travel sector.
The travel sector is a strong and dynamic industry that employs more than 3,500 people across Ireland. Travel agents are engaged in all aspects of overseas travel including leisure, corporate, activity holidays and destination weddings, among others. Last year the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) reported a €1.33 billion turnover for Irish travel agents in 2018 as part of its Annual Report for that year.
While the ITAA welcomes relief announced earlier this week, they are now calling on the Government to consider extraordinary support measures for travel and tourism businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak. It has asked that Ministers consider steps to protect healthy businesses that are already suffering financially as a result of the current situation with the coronavirus.
A prolonged period of travel restrictions will lead to a significant drop in the numbers of public travelling and ultimately to job losses in the Irish travel sector. There is a symbiotic relationship between outbound and inbound travel. Outbound travel from Ireland supports inbound travel to Ireland and the domestic tourism market. The demand for overseas travel leads to increased number of flight options into Ireland.
The ITAA is seeking the following financial supports in order to retain staff and avoid redundancies:
- The ITAA suggests that the Government considers measures such as bridging loans, relief to business rates, and VAT and PAYE deadline extensions and reliefs.
- As the Government has increased unemployment payment for individuals unable to work in isolation, the ITAA is seeking to come to an agreement on a payment equivalent equal to weekly social welfare payments to be made to employers. This could help businesses to maintain salaries for a period of six to 12 weeks.
- The ITAA suggests a reduction in commercial rents by 40% until the end of the year, as well as a reduction in commercial rates by 40% until the end of the year.
- Employers’ PRSI waiver should be extended until the end of the year.
The ITAA is concerned that its members could be at risk of going out of business and is looking for support from the Government during these turbulent times. It has also asked to be included in the newly established Covid-19 Tourism Monitoring Group.