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COVID-19 Trade Update Page

ITAA Calls for Clarity from the Government

3rd July 2020 - 2:05pm

Pat Dawson (ITAA CEO)

Pat Dawson (ITAA CEO)

#Traveltradetogether

The ITAA believes that the ban on non-essential travel should be lifted, and has again called for clarity from the Government, stating that Ireland is now standing alone in Europe in terms of travel restrictions. The current guidelines have caused confusion for both travel agents and their customers, as the Government has not cancelled flights, but are advising passengers against travelling.

 

The ITAA is dissatisfied with the mixed messaging from the Government, and believes that a clear decision must be made between cancelling all flights and offering compensation to affected customers, or implementing ‘air bridges’ between countries in Europe with a similar rate of recovery to Ireland.

 

Pat Dawson (ITAA CEO) stated, “We have been receiving mixed messages from the Government regarding travel restrictions and air bridges over the past few weeks, which is causing huge confusion for customers and travel agents alike. If the Dept. of Health, the Chief Medical Officer and the Dept. of Foreign Affairs wish to uphold these restrictions, they will have to support inbound and outbound tourism and compensate affected consumers – a decision must be made on this. No one in the Irish travel industry is advocating unsafe travel, the response of the Irish people to the pandemic has been astounding, they are not going to start going on holidays and taking risks”.

 

He continued, “The EU Commission wanted a co-ordinated re-opening of borders within the EU, issued on 11 June. We are now significantly behind other EU member states in lifting travel restrictions, despite positive metrics from the NPHET. The travel sector has been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are concerned that we will be the last industry to get a restart date. In addition to not being able to travel, we are also closed for inbound tourism, which will affect the symbiotic relationship between inbound and outbound travel. This delay in lifting travel restrictions will drastically slow the recovery of the Irish travel sector and other related sectors such as hospitality and tourism”.

 

The ITAA have welcomed the news of a State guarantee for Covid-19 refund credit notes issued by Irish licensed travel agents and tour operators. The government announcement states that special Covid-19 refund credit notes issued by Irish licensed travel agents and tour operators will be protected by a State guarantee. This guarantee will protect the cash value of a refund credit note in the event that a travel agent or tour operator becomes insolvent and goes out of business.

 

Under the Package Travel Directive, consumers are entitled to a full cash refund if their package holiday was cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Unfortunately, this led to difficulties for travel agents and tour operators, who had difficulty securing refunds for customers from their suppliers. This put huge financial pressure on businesses within the industry. However, this means that where customers accept the refund credit note, the Government will honour the cash value of the credit note should the issuer go out of business.

 

This was a direct result of months of discussion between the ITAA and the Government which was agreed in May in order to assure consumers that it was safe to accept vouchers as a refund for holiday cancellations due to COVID-19.

 

Pat Dawson (ITAA CEO) stated, “Our member travel agents and tour operators have been under immense pressure both financially and personally as they tried to do what was best for their customers and their livelihood. The news that the Government is willing to stand over the refund credit note has brought huge relief within the Irish travel sector... We are pleased with this significant development for our customers and our member travel agents. We would like to thank the officials from the Dept. of Transport, Tourism and Sport who have worked tirelessly on bringing this about”.

 

In a submission to the Aviation Taskforce, the ITAA outlined short-term actions necessary for the recovery of the Irish travel industry, such as the removal of the two week quarantine, an immediate change to Dept. of Foreign Affairs guidelines on travel, and increased consistency on travel advice across all Government departments.

 

The ITAA have also stressed the need to rebuild consumer confidence in travel, stating that there must be a co-ordinated, sustained, and informative set of guidelines for consumers to re-establish confidence for them to restart booking travel and travelling. The Association believes that it is up to airlines, airports, hotels, tourist boards and other stakeholders to work together on health and safety initiatives that will restore and rebuild consumer confidence.

 

The refund credit note has been established by the Transport (Tour Operators & Travel Agents) Act 1982 (Disbursements from Fund) Regulations 2020 (SI 218 of 2020).


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