The Incoming Tour Operators Association (ITOA) has said that its members require substantial grant aid support to stay in business. 

ITOA members bring overseas capital into Ireland and support 22,500 jobs across the industry, as incoming tourists bring in about €800m to the economy every year.

The ITOA said its members promote and sell Ireland to the highest yielding of international visitor categories - holidaymakers and business tourists. 

It said these are the visitors who stay the longest and explore the most regions, spreading economic benefit into local economies and across the island.  

The association said any grant aid should come in addition to the introduction of safe, structured test and trace travel protocols consistent with the ECDE and the EU traffic light system for incoming international visitors in 2021.

It said this will ensure that Ireland does not lose the estimated €800m that international tourists bring to the economy here annually.

Since being closed since March due to Covid-19 restrictions, incoming tour operators have lost 98% of their 2020 business due to the government travel ban.  

Without urgent financial support, these companies cannot survive until next summer, it warned. 

ITOA is urging the Government to put in place a significant recovery strategy for the tourism industry as part of their re-opening plan.

"If the 31 ITOA member companies are not granted financial aid between now and when the travel ban is lifted, close to 1,000 jobs directly employed in ITOA companies and the 22,500 jobs supported in tourism will be lost," the President of ITOA Rob Rankin said. 

"Business tourism connects FDI investment and research and development to the Irish economy and it is an essential element in promoting Ireland for business on a global stage," Mr Rankin said. 

ITOA members provide more than 700,000 international holiday and business visitors to the island of Ireland every year.

The country's tourism industry depends on overseas tourism for 75% of its revenue, in excess of €7.5 billion annually. 

"ITOA members will be at the forefront of restarting international tourism in the marketplace while also ensuring consumer confidence is maintained and boosted, during the fragile early stages of recovery in 2021," the organisation said.