The Chief Executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association has called on the Government and Department of Foreign Affairs to issue an official instruction to people not to undertake non-essential travel.

That way, Pat Dawson said, consumers will be entitled to refunds from airlines which are due to resume operations in July.

Otherwise, he said, consumers will not be entitled to any refund, if they abide by the current advice to avoid non-essential travel.

He said the Government was advised of the problem months ago, and it is not in the gift of travel agents to resolve the issue.

Mr Dawson said the outlook for the travel agency sector is very bleak, and it will need subsidies and help for at least the next nine months in order to get back on its feet.

He pointed out that the sector has not made any money since the end of March and won't begin making money before the end of this year.

Mr Dawson said grants, not loans, are needed.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One programme, Mr Dawson said travel agents are also calling for the quarantine rule on those coming into Ireland to be lifted.

Mr Dawson said there is also a problem with processing passports at the moment.

The service, he said, is top class when it is up and running but he is concerned that people who need to renew their passport will run into problems because there is nobody working in the passport office.