The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) made a “strong” case for urgent sector-specific business support at a meeting with ministers.

A delegation met transport minister Eamon Ryan and the minister of state responsible for international travel, Hildegarde Naughton to outline the “dire impact” of the pandemic and travel restrictions on the outbound Irish travel industry.

Pat Dawson, ITAA chief executive, said: “Despite being recognised as the industry ‘hardest hit’ by the pandemic, 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% and 75%, and travel agents who have been down 90% consistently since March 2020 with no respite.

“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.”

The ITAA said agents have continued to reschedule bookings to late 2021 but 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.

Along with Dawson, the delegation included Michael Doorley, ITAA president, with ITAA board members Clare Dunne, Valerie Metcalffe and Paul Hackett.

The ITAA has more than 100 travel agent members and 70 affiliate partners.