2020 has been "an absolutely traumatic year" for the tourism and hospitality industry due to Covid-19, the chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation has said.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Eoghan O'Mara Walsh said the industry has seen a revenue drop of about 85%, as well as 150,000 job losses. 

"Since early March we've had next to no international tourists, which make up 75% of the tourism economy," he said. 

"The domestic market had a little bit of a respite over the summer months but they were a few very short weeks, and there's been a series of yo-yo lockdowns since then," he added. 

ITIC members included hotels, airlines, attractions, ferry companies and hospitality businesses amongst others. 

Mr O'Mara Walsh said the loss of this year's summer to overseas tourists was "catastrophic", and if they were to lose next year's summer as well it would be "terminal" for the industry.

"We really need international travel and tourism to recommence - we hope by the second quarter of 2021", he said. 

"We recently did a survey of tourism and hospitality stakeholders and there was a hope that the second quarter would see a commencement of international travel into the country, and then we'd get a fairly vibrant third and fourth quarters,"  he added. 

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

But the expectation is that the tourism industry will only get to about 50% of 2019's numbers, he warned, even if all goes well this year and ITIC members predict that a full recovery will not materialise until 2024 or 2025. 

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation welcomed the Brexit trade deal between the UK and Europe and said it adds to the cautious hope for 2021.

ITIC members identified their most important priority as the removal of quarantine measures to international travel, subject to an appropriate testing regime. 

The next most important influences, identified by the respondents, were ranked as the restoration of airline connectivity, the economic conditions in source markets and destination marketing. 

It said the response to the latest virus strain in Britain of simply shutting down travel is a "blunt instrument" and highlights the failure of authorities to put in place a proper testing regime to ensure that the movement of people can happen Covid-free.

The domestic market will be critical in 2021 and ITIC urged the speedy and effective roll out of the vaccine so as to allow the industry to open and trade fully. 

Mr O'Mara Walsh also said that the Stay and Spend scheme needed to be redesigned and relaunched.

"The domestic market needs to be stimulated with a consumer-friendly voucher scheme for every household to be redeemed against any tourism and hospitality business operating throughout the country," he added.