Dickson Says Travel Agents Have Been Badly Let Down by the Economy Minister
East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, has said he feels let down on behalf of travel agents in Northern Ireland at the lack of support on offer to the sector.
Mr Dickson said: “It is no surprise that travel agents have suffered greatly over the course of the last two years. And it is no surprise that it is a sector that continues to struggle.
“Despite this, the Gordon Lyons MLA, the Economy Minister appears to be unacceptably reticent about providing the financial support many travel operators desperately need.
“In querying the rationale behind this, I have been repeatedly informed by Mr Lyons that the responsibility for travel agents is not held exclusively within his department. I struggle to see where else responsibility for the sector logically lies, and instead see this as another example of the Minister attempting to shirk his responsibilities”.
Mr Dickson went on to add: “I find it convenient that the Minister is so eager to profess that travel agents come under multiple departments because that would excuse why the Executive Office has had to pick up the slack for his negligent attitude toward the sector thus far.
“This assertion is also why, when I have pushed him to expand upon the Travel Agents (Coronavirus) Financial Assistance Scheme 2021, he has been able to use the excuse that his hands are tied due to the Executive standstill.
“A ‘standstill’ entirely manufactured by his own party for their own political purposes”.
The Travel Agents (Coronavirus) Financial Assistance Scheme 2021, set up by the Executive Office in March 2021, offered one-off support for travel agents experiencing difficulties as a result of the pandemic, in the form of a grant payment of £10,000 for agents operating from a commercial premise or £3,500 for agents working from home.
Mr Dickson concluded by saying: “Despite assurances to the Economy Committee (on which I sit), the Gordon Lyons MLA has not replicated the Executive scheme to provide further support to the sector.
“I have pushed time and time again for the Minister to make good on his word, but his recent responses indicate he has no intention of ‘coming through’ for travel agents”.