A "slight delay" in introducing a strict new Covid testing system for people travelling to Ireland from overseas has been described as "maddening" by an umbrella group representing the travel sector.
The new system which is now due to come into force from Sunday has also damaged consumer confidence with bookings "back to lockdown levels", according to the president of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) Paul Hackett.
At the start of the week the Government announced that all incoming travellers except those travelling from Northern Ireland will have to present a negative test result in order to enter the country irrespective of the vaccination status.
The move came in response to concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and the test requirements were due to be introduced from midnight on Thursday.
However the system was postponed at the last minute to midnight on Sunday in order to allow airlines prepare for checks.
An Aer Lingus spokesman told The Irish Times they had been informed of the delay on Thursday night.
The deferral angered travellers who were due to come to Ireland this weekend and had already paid for tests which were no longer a requirement.
Mr Hackett said the delay was “maddening”. He pointed out that members of the ITAA had “worked hard to inform clients in time. The clients have wasted money for tests that are not needed”.
He also expressed concern about what “the confusion does to consumer confidence” and he said that since the start of the week and the announcement that more restrictions on travel were being introduced “sales are back to lockdown levels with no supports” in place for the industry.
On Friday morning the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee described the altered timeline as a “slight delay” and stressed that it was “ not an intentional delay” but was needed to get all the regulations in place.