Irish travel agents want the Government to save them from extinction because their industry is on the brink of collapse.  

The call came at a protest outside the Dáil today as 15 travel agents submitted a letter to the Government on behalf of travel agents throughout Ireland.  

"We are requesting that the Government take urgent action to help save travel agents from extinction and we have enclosed details of the current issues facing travel agents also. Our timeline is short," Ms Jones said.

The travel agents lined up outside the Dáil at 12pm with suitcases decorated with posters highlighting their difficulties.

The group said the Government's advice against non-essential travel, the "disastrous" green list and the 14-day quarantine rule is negatively impacting businesses.

In the letter handed to the Government, the travel agents seek an increase of the wage subsidy to €350 per week; the waiver to claim redundancy needs to be extended to the end of April; and grants not loans to the industry. 

The letter adds: "3,000 travel agents are losing their jobs from travel agencies all over the country this week as a direct result of the cut in the Wage subsidy scheme from €350 to €203 per week.

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"Our staff are highly skilled, experienced, and are an important asset to our companies and indeed the country as a whole."

Michael Doorly, president of the Irish Travel Agents' Association (ITAA), said the soonest travel agents can hope to be back in business is April 2021.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, he called for extra support from the government to "bridge the gap" of being out of business for what will be a 12-month period due to Covid-19.

A vaccine is the only factor that would bring back strong consumer confidence, Mr Doorly said.

"We are realistic that this is not going to happen overnight.  t will take six months after a vaccine is created."

The ITAA also called on the Government to provide supports for travel agents who are struggling as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It said that urgent grant aid is needed for the industry, which would amount to €10,000 per employee or 10% of a company's certified turnover.

The ITAA also wants to see the Commissioner for Aviation Regulation waive licence fees for this year and cut out any red tape.

Linda Jones, the owner of the Travel Boutique in Bray, Co Wicklow, was one of the main organisers of the protest today.

"Travel Agents have a combined turnover of €1.4bn which is a substantial contribution to the Irish economy," she said, adding that the travel sector was the "worst hit industry" during the pandemic and many businesses had a "zero income for the last six months". 

"We lost all of our existing bookings for 2020 that were made during the previous year as well (effectively a lost year's revenue, but we are still carrying the cost by refunding all of our commissions earned in the previous year)," Ms Jones said.  

The group also submitted a copy of a petition to save travel Industry jobs which has over 6,000 signatures. 

Travel agents said they have gone from selling dreams to "living a nightmare".

"We sold dreams. Now we are in a living nightmare", Jeff Collins of Best4Travel group told RTÉ's News At One.

Mr Collins' group, which has ten shops throughout the country, employed 57 people before the pandemic. Today it has seven fulltime jobs.

"We had a thriving business. All our business was local. This Covid situation has decimated the whole industry and my own business," said Mr Collins.

"It has been traumatic to lay off staff who have given their all to me and the company," added Mr Collins.

Mr Collins added that he has sold his car and raise funds to keep his business alive.