The four local travel agents in Dundalk have joined forces to highlight the challenges they are facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic and have been meeting with local TDs to urge them to help them with their campaign to be heard by the Government.
The travel agencies in Dundalk, Centre Travel, KT Travel, O Callaghan Travel and McGuill Travel, who have been in business for almost 150 years between them and employ 30 staff, said the Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge they have ever faced.
They told how they all weathered the SARS virus, 9/11, and the Icelandic ash cloud but have never experienced anything like Covid-19.
The four local travel agents have come together to join forces, like agents all over the country, to lobby local politicians to call on support from the Government.
They have had meetings with Peter Fitzpatrick, Jed Nash, Fergus O Dowd, Ruairi O Murchu and Erin Grenham.
Olivia McGeown of Centre Travel on Dublin Street said: “We are grateful for the meetings and have been reassured that our concerns will be highlighted to the Government.”
They said the strong message they want to project to their loyal customers, is that they are fully bonded and licensed by the Commission of Aviation and customers are guaranteed to get their monies refunded.
Karen Thornton, the owner of KT Travel on Clanbrassil Street, speaking to the Democrat, said: “All travel agents are licenced and bonded, this means that regardless of the outcome, our clients’ money is always safe.
“If you book online or with a non-licenced travel agency, your money is not safe.
“The staff from all the four travel agencies have been working day in day out trying to facilitate our clients.
“Unlike other sectors we could not and would not close our doors because we have excellent customer service and we want to maintain this reputation and help our clients as much as we can.
“We have had the extremely difficult task of obtaining refunds and changing holidays for clients and this has been very hard as we are the agent and can only give options that the operators or airlines provide to us as we don’t make the rules.
“It has been extremely challenging for both our staff and customers as its very uncertain times, but we will not stop.
“Any refunds we receive from airlines or operators will be refunded to our clients within 48 hours.
“We would like to thank our customers for their patience, we are getting through the refunds but it’s a very slow process.
“We all know that we will either get a vaccine or we will have to live with Covid-19, we all know that travel will resume.
“We have to look forward to 2021, we are confident that travel will resume, and we are so looking forward to booking our clients again on their dream trips.”
The four local travel agents said the travel trade is in a more unique position than any other sector.
They have worked through the lockdown, facilitating the repatriation of clients and processing refunds.
They told how they have been in receipt of very little income and have refunded 130% of their commissions for advance bookings made in 2019 and bookings for 2020.
The ITAA, which represents travel agents in Ireland, have been working tirelessly since March 20, and have made a submission to the Government looking for financial support for the travel trade. The local travel agents said the ITAA have supplied constant support and advice to its members which has been “very beneficial”.
A representative group for travel agents across the country also delivered a petition to Leinster House last Wednesday seeking Government support for the sector.
John McGuill, the owner of McGuill Travel on Market Square, whose family have been in business in the town for a hundred years, said that the Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge the sector has had to face.
“Travel agents weathered 9/11, the Icelandic ash cloud and SARS but the Covid-19 crisis is the biggest challenge that the industry has had to face”, Mr McGuill said.
“We are working tirelessly to weather this storm ensuring refunds are accommodated and giving our customers travel advice.”
Maria Neary, co-owner of O’Callaghan Travel in the Clanbrassil Centre, added: “We would all like to thank our professional and hardworking staff, for all the support and effort especially during this pandemic.
“We are all looking forward to arranging our customers’ travel arrangements in the near future.”