The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has responded positively to the announcement by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport 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.
The Refund Credit Note has been established by the Transport (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Act 1982 (Disbursements from Fund) Regulations 2020 (SI 218 of 2020).
Under the EU 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 new development 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 development was a direct result of months of discussion between the ITAA, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and other Government departments. The Government agreed to these measures 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 Chief Executive, said: “The travel industry is one of the most damaged parts of the economy, with business down over 98% since March and with no sign of a start-up date for travel. The outbound travel industry works closely with inbound tourism to make air routes viable and both sectors combined account for almost 250,000 jobs in Ireland. We are calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs for an update on travel advisories and consistency of messaging around DFA travel advice, as many flights continue to operate contrary to travel advice. These inconsistencies will have a detrimental effect on consumer confidence in the travel industry.
“For the last three months our member travel agents and tour operators have been under immense pressure 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, as it is a step in rebuilding our industry as soon as the threat of Covid-19 has passed. We are pleased with this significant development for our customers and our member travel agents. We would like to thank the officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport who have worked tirelessly on bringing this about.”
In a submission to the Aviation Taskforce earlier this week, the ITAA outlined a number of short-term actions necessary for the recovery of the Irish travel industry, such as the removal of the two-week quarantine period when entering Ireland, an immediate change to Department of Foreign Affairs guidelines on travel, and increased consistency on travel advice across all Government Departments.
The ITAA has 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.