ONE of Ireland’s best-known tour operators and travel agencies, Joe Walsh Tours, has ceased trading today after 60 years in business.
he Commission for Aviation Regulation said the company, which traded under several names including Concorde Travel, Leinster Rugby Tours and Cara Holidays, is “unable to fulfil its obligations to its customers”.
“Joe Walsh Pilgrimtours Ltd did everything they could to see themselves and their customers through the pandemic,” the company said in a statement.
“Like many travel agencies and tour operators [it] was paying overheads, while at the same time unable to trade and also waiting on refunds from suppliers.
“Joe Walsh Pilgrimtours Ltd has worked full-time during the pandemic for no return.”
The company has set up claim-related hotlines for Irish and UK customers to assist them with queries. The Irish number to contact is 01 241-0800.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation said any customers left out of pocket may be covered by its consumer protection scheme and the Government’s refund credit note scheme. Customers with monies paid towards a cancelled booking or a future travel package can contact aviationreg.ie to make a claim.
Joe Walsh Tours is just the latest travel agency to cease trading in Ireland during the pandemic, joining a list that includes USIT, Rathgar Travel, Flyaway Travel, Planet Travel, SunSearch and DK travel.
Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association said the closure highlights the difficulties the travel industry has been experiencing, and called on Government “to extend income support for travel agents into 2022 when the public are back travelling and holidaying again”.
“Travel protocols in Ireland are the most restrictive in Europe, putting Irish travel companies at a disadvantage to their European counterparts,” the Joe Walsh Tours statement said.
Joe Walsh was an iconic name in Irish travel, establishing his holiday business in 1961 in Dublin after working with Thomas Cook in London.
Chartering his own planes, he helped introduce the public to package holidays (memorable 1970s ads beckoned punters to “join the JWT set”), while pilgrimage trips to places such as Lourdes were among the first flights many Irish people would have taken overseas.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the company had offices in Ireland, the UK, Europe and in the US. It employed over 100 people and also ran package-deal trips to Heineken Cup and Champions League games.
The company said it had continued to assist customers with refunds and rebookings over the past year and had business interruption insurance in place, but was unable to reach agreement on a large refund claim to help it continue trading.
“This will now be a matter for the liquidators to progress in due course,” it added.
Joe Walsh PilgrimTours Ltd thanked its staff and customers for their “loyalty over the years and for their support and understanding during this time”.