This March 15 2020 photo from The Freeman shows Mactan-Cebu International Airport at the start of the implementation of travel restrictions against COVID-19.
The Freeman

Travel agencies press government for support to save ‘bleeding’ business

Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - April 13, 2020 - 8:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — After the global coronavirus pandemic disrupted travel plans across the world, cash-strapped travel agencies and tour operators in the country issued a rallying call to the government to act decisively to support their “bleeding” industry.

In a March 30 letter to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) said they’re fastening their seatbelts for a turbulent future, adding that their businesses won’t survive without a financial lifeline from the government.

After the entire main island of Luzon was placed under an enhance community quarantine — which has grounded flights and kept half of the country’s population indoors for more than a month — PTAA President Jose Ma. Renard Gregory Tuano told Puyat that “several agents are no longer talking about recovery but rather how to survive.”

“At this juncture, we are anxious and greatly concerned for the near and immediate term on how to keep our business afloat with the continuing overhead expenses but with little to zero sales coming in,” Tuano wrote.

“We are bleeding and we will continue to bleed for an undetermined length of time with all the uncertainties of the times,” he added.

The health crisis has escalated in the Philippines in the past month, leaving hotels empty, cruise ships docked and tour buses parked amid contagion fears and travel barriers imposed by the government. Layoffs in the travel and tourism sectors are mounting.

Tax relief, deferred benefit payments

To save their business, PTAA recommended to the Department of Tourism ways to support the travel industry, including providing tax relief, deferring benefit payments for both employees and employers, and granting two-year soft loans to travel agencies by government banks, among others.

The PTAA also sought for a six-month waiver “or significant discounting” on office rentals, as well as 20-30% reduction in payment of monthly utility bills and a moratorium on bank loans and credit card billings until the end of the year.

“We are aware that some, if not most of our recommendations may not be within the purview of your Department, but your favorable endorsement of these to the concerned agencies will be greatly appreciated,” Tuano told the Tourism chief.

“The prospect of when this pandemic will be put under control and when people will regain back the confidence to travel again is currently glim and uncertain,” he added.

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