The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has hailed government finalisation of a financial-protection guarantee for Refund Credit Notes in Ireland as a “huge relief”.

The Dublin government confirmed it would guarantee Refund Credit Notes for cancelled package holidays against the insolvency of the issuer on May 8.

The move is in stark contrast to the attitude of the UK government which has declined to guarantee Refund Credit Notes for cancelled package holidays despite this being in line with existing Atol rules and the policy of the Air Travel Trust which makes Atol refunds.

Ireland’s Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport issued the guarantee for Covid-19 Refund Credit Notes by licensed travel Agents and tour operators at the end of last week.

In a statement, the ITAA said: “This guarantee will protect the cash value of a Refund Credit Note in the event that a travel agent or tour operator goes out of business.”

It noted the requirement to pay cash refunds “put huge financial pressure on businesses” which “had difficulty securing refunds from suppliers”.

ITAA chief executive Pat Dawson said: “The travel industry is one of the most-damaged parts of the economy, with business down over 98% since March and no sign of a start-up date for travel.”

He called on Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) “consistency of messaging around travel advice, as many flights continue to operate contrary to travel advice”.

This threatens to have “a detrimental effect on consumer confidence in the travel industry”, said Dawson.

He added: “For the last three months our member travel agents and tour operators have been under immense pressure financially and personally as they tried to do what was best for their customers and their livelihood.

“News that the government is willing to stand over the Refund Credit Note has brought huge relief.”

Travellers to Ireland face two-week quarantine restrictions on entering the country, similar to restrictions in the UK – although Britain’s self-isolation requirements do not apply to arrivals from Ireland.

Ireland’s foreign office also advises against all but essential travel overseas.

Transport minister Shane Ross said in May: “The government has agreed to back a new refund credit note that travel agents and tour operators can offer their customers.

“It is not clear that all of them will be able to meet all of their current cash refund obligations and at the same time be able to stay in business.

“The refund credit note aims to strike a balance between preventing sector-wide bankruptcy and consumer rights.”