East Antrim support for travel sector’s day of action over ‘grant aid promise’

East Antrim travel sector representatives joined colleagues from across Northern Ireland in a day of action yesterday (Wednesday).

They gathered at Stormont to lobby politicians on two key issues: the payment of support grants promised to travel agents back in March 2021 and the reopening of international travel.

The travel industry has been decimated by the Covid pandemic and Damian Murphy, chair of Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents (ANITA), claims that the sector locally will be severely impacted if the current situation continues. “We are standing alongside our colleagues across the UK travel industry on this important UNITE day of action to highlight the precarious situation our industry is in right now,” said Mr Murphy.

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“No business can survive such a prolonged period without any income coming in, which is what travel agents across Northern Ireland have had to endure since March 2020.

Damian Murphy (front right), chair of the Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents), and representatives from the travel trade met with MLAs including (from left) Mike Nesbitt (UUP), Sinead McLaughlin (SDLP), Caoimhe Archibald (Sinn Fein) and Stewart Dickson (Alliance) at Stormont to lobby for the payment of support grants promised to travel agents back in March 2021 and the reopening of international travel.

“We are calling on the Department for the Economy to make good on its promise of grant aid for travel agents in Northern Ireland, which was made in March of this year yet still hasn’t been paid over.”

Damian continued: “Furthermore, we are calling on ministers at Stormont and Westminster to allow international travel to return in a ‘risk managed’ way by properly implementing the Global Travel Taskforce Plan.”

ANITA members met with local MLAs including Mike Nesbitt (UUP), Stewart Dickson (Alliance), Sinead McLaughlin (SDLP) and Caoimhe Archibald (Sinn Fein) at Stormont to hand over a letter calling for urgent government financial support and the reopening on international travel.

Mr Dickson said: “The travel industry was one of the first hit by the Covid-19 Pandemic, and continues to face strict restrictions on travel, reducing demand massively. Many have had essentially zero income since March 2020.

“I understand that we need to ensure that travel is safe, but as long as these restrictions are in place, we must make sure that the industry is supported. Travel agents for example, are key high street businesses and help maintain flight routes which also bring tourists into Northern Ireland, providing additional jobs and investment.”
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson: “As I join a protest today against travel restrictions, my message to the government is stop crippling a crucial industry and stop removing free travel from your citizens.”

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