Budget 2021: Will It Support Travel Agents or Not?

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe TD will present Budget 2021 today and travel agents await, with some trepidation, to learn if it includes specific financial supports for travel agencies – and if the Government is going to adopt the EU’s new ‘traffic light’ system in its entirety.

If any financial supports offered are limited to businesses that have been forced to close, this would exclude travel agencies that have had to stay open – if only to process refunds or change dates for bookings already made pre-pandemic.

Yesterday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD confirmed that Ireland will sign up to the EU’s ‘traffic light’ system for travel this week, but added that airport testing will not be rolled out at this stage due to current capacity levels. “Any testing capacity needed for travel will be over and above what we already have. The Departments of Transport, Health and Foreign Affairs are examining what capacity will be needed and they are working through the testing options and the protocols. We are exploring PCR testing, which is the gold standard and the system that is currently used in Ireland, and we are exploring the use of antigen or lamp testing, which is essentially a rapid test. Testing at airports will happen because it is required as part of the protocol.”

Inbound Tourism Sector Appeals

A number of Ireland’s leading tourist attractions turned green on Thursday 8 October to highlight the plight of inbound tourism as pandemic restrictions persist. The event was organised by industry leaders to send a clear message to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe TD as he prepared Budget 2021 in the hope that he “sees green”.

The Cliffs of Moher, The Guinness Storehouse and King John’s Castle were among the venues flooded with green light across Dublin, Clare, Limerick, Kerry, Cork, Galway and Meath.

Inbound tourism supports over 200,000 livelihoods in Ireland, but the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a drop of as much as 95% in revenues for 2020. This has resulted in the loss of €800 million in Ireland’s international visitor revenue, and an extremely bleak outlook for the industry.

Organisations including AIPCO, EII, ITOA, IAAT, IGTOA and SITE acknowledge that public safety is paramount. However they say that the focus should be on reviving the tourism economy once restrictions can be lifted. Without the necessary supports from Budget 2021, the businesses best placed to lead that recovery may lose their fight for survival.

Rob Rankin, President, Incoming Tour Operators Association – Ireland (ITOA), said “Restrictions to the inbound tourism sector continue to have a devastating effect on the industry across Ireland. With a loss of €800 million to Ireland’s international visitor revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, we need a commitment from government now more than ever that support is on the way. I hope this event inspired government to take the necessary actions and revive the tourism industry in Ireland.”

The measures being requested by the group of organisations include the provision of realistic grant aid, and increased income supports for the hardest hit businesses.

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