Irish Travel Agents Association seek clarity on rules for travel ‘green list’ of countries

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) is calling for clarity on the ‘green list’ of countries approved for international travel, stating that unless current travel restrictions are lifted, the publication of a green list is futile. The Association believes that the list could cause confusion for both inbound and outbound travellers, unless travel advice relating to the countries on the list changes.

The current advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team states that all non-essential foreign travel should be avoided, regardless of whether a country is on the proposed green list or not. The Association 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 lifting the non-essential travel ban for the countries on the green list. The ITAA has previously discussed implementing ‘air bridges’ on routes within countries in Europe with a similar rate of recovery to Ireland.

The ITAA is also concerned at the lack of protection afforded to consumers under the current guidelines, as many customers are not entitled to a refund if they choose to cancel their flights. The Association believes that the Government and Department of Foreign Affairs needs to make a clear decision on travel restrictions going forward, for the benefit of Irish consumers and member travel agents.

ITAA CEO Pat Dawson stated, “Unless the current travel restrictions are lifted, there is no point in issuing a ‘green list’ of countries for Irish travellers, as the Department of Foreign Affairs is still advising against all non-essential travel out of Ireland. The current guidelines have had a huge impact on Irish consumers, as the non-essential travel ban is not covered by insurance. If consumers follow guidelines and choose not to go on their holidays, they are not entitled to a refund. If the Department of Foreign Affairs issued a ‘do not travel’ advisory, at least consumers would be able to get money back for their flights.”

He continued, “The current travel restrictions provide no relief to either inbound or outbound travel, which will have a knock on effect on the Irish travel industry well into the future. We are asking the Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs to make a clear decision on the current guidelines so that we can begin to rebuild our industry.”

The Irish travel sector has been drastically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; since March 2020 the industry is down by 98%. Domestic tourism accounts for 30% of the overall tourism spend in Ireland, meaning that the industry relies on overseas tourism for 70% of its revenue. There are currently 250,000 jobs at risk in the tourism sector, which is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry.