Dickson says urgent action needed to support local travel agents

COVID-19 Economy Tourism

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has called on some Executive Departments to take urgent action to support local travel agents, who have been impacted severely by the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions.

East Antrim MLA Mr Dickson held a meeting with the Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents today, alongside Alliance colleague John Blair MLA, to hear first-hand the impact of the restrictions on the industry.

“Travel agents were some of the first to be affected by restrictions on travel. For 18 months, they have had little to no business, and yet have been helping customers with refunds and advice, as travel plans become more challenging,” he said.

“Although it is welcome the Executive Office set up a scheme to assist the sector, it took much too long to pay out, and is nowhere near enough to help businesses through this extremely challenging time, especially as travel is still quite restricted and the furlough scheme will end soon.

“The Department for the Economy also needs to step up to help these businesses, and stop passing the buck. Travel agents are high street businesses with around 100 shops in Northern Ireland and 600 employees, which also help support inward tourism by maintaining air routes to and from Northern Ireland.

“Ultimately, if the Department is serious about our high streets and jobs, the Minister must act urgently to help travel agents get through this challenging period until they can trade again as normal. I will be seeking a meeting with the Economy Minister and the First and deputy First Ministers to urgently press this issue.”