Government has approved a proposal to provide a State guarantee for a Refund Credit Note (RCN); a time bound special measure to address the exceptional circumstances created by Covid-19. The proposal is that, with customer consent, RCNs can be issued by Irish registered travel agents and tour operators instead of cash refunds for package holidays cancelled due to restrictions arising from Covid-19. The RCNs will be redeemable for cash 6 months after issue but can also be used up to two years to book a replacement holiday. If not redeemed or used upon expiry, the customer will receive the cash refund to the value of the original booking. The objective is to protect consumer rights to security on cancelled bookings and at the same time, in circumstances where the customer is willing and able to receive a RCN, give the companies that make up the travel agent and tour operator sector - many of which are small, local family firms - some alleviation from the tidal wave of cancellations and the severe cash flow difficulties that this is causing.
Legislative provisions are currently being drafted to give effect to the RCNs.
The Deputy will be aware of the catastrophic financial impact of Covid-19 across the travel and tourism sector, affecting Irish companies selling holidays abroad and Irish companies selling and facilitating holidays in Ireland. This particular scheme is part of a much broader package of measures that are either available or are being prepared to support as many viable businesses and jobs in the sector as possible. It is limited to travel bookings made in Ireland for travel overseas, as comprehended by the EU Package Travel Directive (2302/2015), and it is aligned with recommendations made by the EU Commission last month. Ireland continues to advocate for a consistent approach across the EU in order that a level playing field is maintained and to ensure that all companies in the travel supply chain receive the same level of support. Within the EU travel area, at the least, such a common approach should be of some help to tour operators dealing with inbound visitors.
In relation to the domestic tourism market more generally, on 20 May the Minister of State Brendan Griffin and I established the Tourism Recovery Taskforce in order to prepare a Tourism Recovery Plan. The plan will identify priority aims, key enablers and market opportunities for the sector for the period 2020-2023 to ensure that this vital sector to our economy can adapt and recover in a meaningful and sustainable way.