A total of €10m has been allocated for 2022 to provide support for Licenced Outbound Travel Agents and Tour Operators, a move which has been welcomed by the The Irish Travel Agents Association.

Minister for State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said the sector has suffered significant ongoing disruption to its business during the pandemic.

The funding allocation will be used to assist travel agents and tour operators licensed by the Commission for Aviation Regulation with non-pay business costs up to the end of next April.

It is expected that the funding scheme will open for applications in January 2022.

Hildegarde Naughton said the sector which comprises of mostly small, and family run businesses, has remained open throughout the Covid crisis in support of its customer base.

"While various Government business supports have assisted this sector, I am pleased to have secured this targeted funding for the sector which has a strong affiliation and is a reliable source of bookings and revenue for airlines," she said.

"The trade generated via licensed outbound travel agents and tour operators is a factor in generating demand for air service connectivity between Ireland and overseas markets," she added.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said Irish consumers have consistently shown their confidence in licenced travel agencies to provide them with secure, quality leisure and business trips abroad.

He noted that the sector has been one of the hardest hit by the impact of the pandemic with a recovery that has been much slower than other parts of the economy.

Michael McGrath

"As a provider of employment on a nationwide basis, I believe it is important that we give travel agents the opportunity to fully participate in the upturn in long haul international travel when it occurs," Mr McGrath said.

"The €10m funding that has been set aside in the Revised Estimates Volume 2022 will go a long way to ensuring the future viability of the sector and I look forward to travel agents continuing to serve the Irish public to the high standards to which they are accustomed," he added.

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) said the travel industry has been decimated over the past 22 months by both the impact of the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions on international travel.

This fund will help travel agents throughout the country remain in business until viable trading can resume, the ITAA said.

The ITAA said it has been working tirelessly with government departments and politicians since summer 2020 to secure financial support to protect the travel industry and, in turn, to protect the Irish consumer.

"Consumers who book with a bonded, licensed Irish travel agent are guaranteed protection under the European Package Travel Directive (PTD). This protection is not present when booking 'do-it-yourself' holidays," it added.

Paul Hackett, President of the ITAA, said the past 22 months have been the most difficult of all times for the travel industry.

"Travel agents have facilitated clients with refunds and rebooking throughout this time despite trading at near zero levels," Mr Hackett said.

He said the funding will go towards protecting the Irish based travel industry, facilitating a smooth and safe return to business in 2022.

"Our industry is resilient. We have overcome other catastrophes in the past and for the most part our members have survived the most challenging trading environment ever seen," he said.

"I have no doubt that over the next 18 to 24 months we will recover to pre-pandemic trading levels," he added.