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Plight of Licensed Travel Agents & Tour Operators raised in the Dáil

31st July 2020 - 4:00pm

Dáil Éireann

Dáil Éireann


Independent TD, Michael Lowry raised the plight of licensed travel agents and tour operators as part of Leaders’ Questions in Dáil Éireann on 16 July 2020. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, in his response, stated “We want to make sure that they survive and that they're able to do well again when we get past this pandemic”


For a summary of the pertinent points for the travel trade, here are extracts from discussions in the Dáil:

Mr Lowry said, “…travel agents are not arguing against government advice but it is arguing and concerned about the unintended consequences that are putting them in jeopardy. Greater assistance is urgently required. Travel agents were excluded from applying for the online retail scheme in the first round of grants as they are considered as only providing a leisure service. Travel agents should not be excluded from the upcoming round of financial support for SMEs or from applying for certain brands that may evolve due to a misconception of the level and type of businesses they provide”.


“… the government advice is not to travel. Thousands of people who follow that advice have cancelled flights and holidays. Most of these cancellations are package holidays which include flights transfers and accommodation. We have a ludicrous situation that under a European Union directive the travel agent is legally responsible for the refund of the entire package. This is simply not financially sustainable. It is a travesty and incredibly unfair to expect travel agents to shoulder the burden of this financial outlay. It will force them into liquidation… the travel agent and thousands of consumers across Ireland are caught stranded in the middle between a European Union directive and government travel advice. So Tánaiste, this is a matter that needs urgent attention and correction”.


Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, commented that he had briefly spoken to the president of the ITAA and added “Minister Naughton whose responsibilities cover aviation and international travel will be meeting with the Association “in the next couple of days to explore what specific supports we may be able to put in place for them”.


“About 3,000 people across the country work in travel agents and tour operators. We all know these businesses they’re largely locally owned, often family-owned. They tend to be an important feature on our high streets. Where many people now book online, lots of people still use travel agents and tour operators and that includes inbound and outbound travellers. We want to make sure that they survive and that they're able to do well again when we get past this pandemic”.


The Tánaiste added that while travel agents and tour operators do benefit from actions the government has already put in place, namely the wage subsidy scheme, the refund credit note scheme, commercial rates have been waived and some are eligible for the restart grant once they get started again, he said, “we will see what else can be done both in terms of the July stimulus that's happening next week and also if there’s anything, in particular, we can do this sector and that's what Minister Naughton will be exploring with them”.


In responding to Mr Lowry in relation to the online retail scheme that falls under the Tánaiste’s direct remit, Mr Varadkar said that while “that funding is all drawn down now but if we are able to reopen this I do take your point I think you make a valid point that they should be included in that too”.

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