The chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation has said that while there is no inbound tourism at the moment, he is hopeful that there will be a safe resumption of air travel in the latter half of this year. 

Eoghan O'Mara Walsh said the sector is heavily dependent on international travel.

He said there must be a government focus on rolling out the vaccine as quickly and urgently as possible so air travel into Ireland can be resumed. 

The Irish tourism economy, he said, is "absolutely, fundamentally dependent on international tourism". 

Mr O'Mara Walsh told Morning Ireland the domestic market is not big or robust enough to sustain the hospitality business in Ireland and 75% of the tourism market depends on international travel. 

He said 2020 was an absolute "write-off" and saw an 85% drop in revenue along with the loss of around 160,000 jobs. 

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Meanwhile, global tourism suffered its worst year on record in 2020, with international arrivals dropping by 74% according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). 

Destinations worldwide saw one billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in the previous year, due to an unprecedented fall in demand and widespread travel restrictions. 

This compares with the 4% decline recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis. 

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the collapse in international travel represents an estimated loss of $1.3 trillion in export revenues - more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis. 

The crisis has put between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk, many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises.

Due to the evolving nature of the pandemic, many countries are now reintroducing stricter travel restrictions. 

These include mandatory testing, quarantines and in some cases a complete closure of borders, all weighing on the resumption of international travel. 

At the same time, UNWTO said the gradual rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine is expected to help restore consumer confidence, contribute to the easing travel restrictions and slowly normalise travel during the year ahead.