Operators of English as a foreign language (EFL) schools and services say the industry is worth €1.2bn to the Irish economy, but faces a massive decline because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The large influx of students into Ireland to learn English is a significant source of revenue for the Irish economy, according to Progressive College Network (PCN), a representative body for English language schools nationwide.
They say revenue is expected to fall by as much as 80pc as a result of travel restrictions, social distancing constraints and the nervousness around travel.
This will place thousands of jobs at risk in the sector that employs 5,000 full-time, with another 9,000 in part-time or seasonal employment.
Ireland is the number one per capita destination in the world for learners of English as a foreign language, according to PCN, with thousands of students arriving each year from countries including Italy, Spain, France, South Korea, Mexico and Japan.
With many of those visitors not coming in 2020 and potentially beyond, knock-on impacts will hit accommodation providers, private bus companies and host families, the PCN said.
The group says measures including a Government-backed loan scheme, the waiving of commercial rates for 2020, and the continuation of the wage subsidy scheme for as long as social distancing requirements are in effect could help the sector recover.
"Both quarantine and social distancing requirements are going to make life very difficult for those working in the sector," said the chair of PCN, David Russell.
"People coming here for 25-week courses will be okay, they will have to pay for an additional two weeks' accommodation, but the summer schools [programme], that's not going to happen this year, which will impact schools, as well as lots of host families and local businesses."