Irish travel agents call for 'clear guidelines' as airlines launch summer schedules

Tourists must follow government advice on travel, not airline offers, says industry body

ITAA said consumers should “adhere to the current travel guidelines from the Department, which state that non-essential travel should be avoided until further notice”. File photograph: Natascha Libbert/Bloomberg

ITAA said consumers should “adhere to the current travel guidelines from the Department, which state that non-essential travel should be avoided until further notice”. File photograph: Natascha Libbert/Bloomberg

 

A group representing Irish travel agents has expressed concern that airlines will start operating a significantly increased number of flights out of Ireland next month despite official advice which continues to warn against overseas travel.

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has called on the Government to provide “clear and concise guidelines on travel restrictions for Irish travellers as soon as possible” and stressed that people will have to follow that advice rather than go with travel options put forward by airlines.

Airlines across Europe are gearing up to offer as much of their regular schedule as they can in the weeks ahead as countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece prepare to open their borders to tourists.

However the ITAA has urged caution and warned that airlines may start flying out of Ireland on July 1st, “in spite of current travel advice issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs.”

The ITAA has said consumers should “adhere to the current travel guidelines from the Department, which state that non-essential travel should be avoided until further notice”.

Passports

It has also called on the Passport Office to begin processing document applications “with immediate affect” to ensure the travel sector is not further impacted by an extended backlog in applications once the Covid-19 crisis lifts and international travel resumes.

The services offered by the Passport Office were dramatically curtailed in March with hundreds of staff diverted to work in other areas of the civil service including on helplines for the Department of Social Protection and tracing of complex coronavirus cases.

Alongside processing emergency passports and some online passport applications, most people who require travel documents have been told to wait until the crisis abates before normal service will be resumed. Public offices are closed until further notice.

The ITAA has sought clarity for their customers in relation to passport applications and renewals from the Department of Foreign Affairs as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact the travel sector.

It is calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs to reopen the passport office with immediate effect and its chief executive Pat Dawson said clarity was needed as to when normal service may resume.

“We want to do what is best for our customers during this extremely stressful time,” he said. “This delay in passport renewals will further hurt our industry, as customers who want to book holidays after the quarantine is lifted will be forced to wait for their passport application to be approved.”

He warned that the system would be overwhelmed by the backlog in passport renewals and applications “and this will drastically slow the recovery of the travel sector both at home and abroad.”

He said that unless someone is considered to be in an emergency situation “their right to leave the country is invalidated should they not be in possession of a valid passport. We have been engaging with the department on these matters since the beginning of the pandemic in Ireland, and it is vital that these communications continue so that we can keep our customers safe and informed of their options now and over the coming weeks and months.”