In a media briefing, Travel Specialist Ventures president and general manager Rowena Coloma said about 40 percent of her travel agency’s expected bookings for the year have already been cancelled due to the imposed travel bans amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
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As bookings drop, travel agencies cut work days
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - March 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak is already pushing travel agencies to cut working days due to the lesser amount of bookings, an industry stakeholder said.

In a media briefing, Travel Specialist Ventures president and general manager Rowena Coloma said about 40 percent of her travel agency’s expected bookings for the year have already been cancelled due to the imposed travel bans amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

At present, the Philippines is imposing a temporary travel ban on China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau, as well as the North Gyeongsang province of South Korea.

Coloma, however, emphasized that these are not all outright cancellations, with some opting to rebook their planned trips.

“They’ll just wait and see what will happen and they will still push through with their trip when the situation normalizes,” Coloma said.

Due to the cancellations, Coloma said she has cut their operating days to five days a week, from the usual six.

Despite the shorter number of work days, Coloma said compensation remains the same for employees as the supposed number of work hours on Saturdays are just carried over to the other workdays of the week.

Coloma stressed that no layoffs have been made in her travel agency that employs about 30 people.

Apart from the shorter number of work days, Coloma said they continue to explore other markets, as well as look for more ways to do business such as visa processing, to help mitigate losses in the Chinese and Korean market.

“I find new businesses and new destinations that are still COVID-19-free like we do South America now, we do a lot of itineraries in the domestic market,” Coloma said.

“We also do visa processing because it’s not affected because people will visit their relatives, people will have reunions no matter what,” she added.

Based on data from the Bureau of Immigration foreign arrivals in February already dropped 41.4 percent to 418,126 arrivals from 713,394 arrivals in the same month last year.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) said earlier the travel ban to China, Macau and Hong Kong is expected to cause P42 billion in foregone revenue from February to April.

While stakeholders admit that the industry is already bleeding, both the government and the private sector continue to cooperate by pushing for domestic tourism in a bid to help mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

As part of the push for domestic tourism, tourism stakeholders already started to roll out more value-added packages, discounted accommodation and marked down prices on domestic flights.

“So far, based on the data we’ve received from the stakeholders participating in the domestic fun program, there are actual bookings already,” Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) president Jose Clemente III said earlier.

“Inquiries are also coming in and later this week we’re coming up with an expanded list of properties that will be participating,” he added.

Under the domestic fun program, around 35 partner hotels have earlier announced discounted rates of up to 50 percent.

“We’ll be closer to 60 properties by the end of this week,” Clemente said.

The DOT has allocated P6 billion which will be used for international and domestic promotions, infrastructure, and regional tourism development.

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