Financial assistance urged for hotel workers
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - March 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Hotel and Sales Marketing Association (HSMA) is urging the government to provide financial assistance to hotel workers on forced leave due to the implementation of community quarantine in Metro Manila amid the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic.

In a text message to The STAR, HSMA president Christine Ibaretta said a financial assistance from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is among the measures that could help ease the impact of the community quarantine on the hotel market.

“Similar scheme when Boracay was closed for six months. DOLE gave P4,000 per month for six months,” Ibaretta said

The labor department earlier provided financial assistance to 17,735 workers displaced by the Boracay closure in 2018 amounting to P4,205.50 per month, which is 50 percent of daily minimum wage in Western Visayas.

Metro Manila is under a month-long quarantine until April 14,which calls for the suspension of land, air and sea travel to and from Metro.

As of this writing, there are 111 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Ibaretta said hotel sales and marketing have already been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with hotel occupancy now at 36 to 49 percent from 75 to 98 percent in the past.

“Clients do not accept our sales calls,” Ibaretta said adding that this has resulted in four-day workweeks, work from home schemes and the use of sick leaves and vacation leaves by employees.

“Room rates of the properties were likewise as low as 75 percent off the rack,” Ibaretta said.

The Department of Tourism (DOT), along with other tourism stakeholders, including hotels agreed earlier to offer discounted rates for hotels, airfare and tour packages to promote domestic tourism amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Apart from the financial assistance for workers, Ibaretta cited tax holidays, financial assistance to low income earners as well as an extension of flexibility on loan amortization for all by banks as among other measures that could help ease the impact of the Metro Manila quarantine on the hotel industry.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) president Jose Clemente told The STAR earlier that they would ask for additional financial rescue packages from the government as the tourism industry is probably the hardest hit sector.

“We will collapse without that,” he said.

Clemente said this would be added to the group’s initial wishlist to the government.

The wishlist was presented during the meeting of the Tourism Coordinating Council (TCC).

The DOT earlier allocated P6 billion to help mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the fund, P725 million will be allocated for tactical programs, conducting and participation of international events and market development initiatives worldwide.

“For our direct support to the private sector, the DOT will waive the participation fees for international travel and trade fairs from Feb. 17 to June 30,  amounting to P11.2 million,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said earlier.

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