Travel agencies hesitant to reopen

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    Travel agencies remain cautious of resuming operations even after government have relaxed their re striction.

    This developed as the Department of Tourism (DOT) will soon issue the amended guidelines for the expanded operational capacity of hotels including staycation hotels following the authorization granted by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases for the agency to determine the allowable operational capacity (up to 100 percent) for hotels, including staycation hotels, in areas classified under a modified community quarantine and general community quarantine (GCQ).

    Ritchie Tuaño, president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), said in a statement that based on the “Outlook Survey” conducted by the association in late September, 74 percent of its members will only open when there is enough business to sustain operations.

    About 84 percent are laying the groundworks for contact less transactions.

    Furthermore, 87 percent of the member travel agencies said they will again offer all their services; 71 percent believe they will benefit from the travel bubbles, and 85 percent will change their pricing strategy.

    PTAA meanwhile is urging airlines to provide full refunds for cancelled flights since March when the government imposed travel restrictions that is estimated at a low of P315.55 million.

    “We continue to ask for the public’s understanding on their refunds. Although travel agencies have been moved to Category III status, they might still be cautious in resuming operations until such time there is reasonable demand for travel that will allow them to sufficiently cover overhead cost of their operations. We want our member travel agencies to have the ability to immediately refund their clients whose flights were cancelled while at the same time have enough flexibility to slowly resume operations even as the country is still dealing with the pandemic,” Tuaño said.

    Aside from the travel refunds, the PTAA has been working for its members to gain immediate access to the financial assistance and soft loans as provided in Bayanihan 2.

    According to the survey, the top five among 35 airlines with pending refunds are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Emirates, and All Nippon Airways.

    Meanwhile, DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said “the decision to open at 100% operational capacity will be subject to the hotel management’s decision and compliance with the safety guidelines”.

    Earlier, Puyat directed all hotels and other tourism establishments in areas declared to be under GCQ to secure a DOT Certificate of Authority to Operate for Staycations prior to accommodating any guests for that purpose.