Travel firms plead for stimulus cash, refund of P141M for cancelled flights
The umbrella group of the country’s travel agencies want its members to have more access to cash from banks and the government as part of the economic stimulus package pending in Congress if the tourism industry is to recover.
This, according to Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), would help the tourism industry get back on its feet.
The group is pleading for a financial lifeline for the sector and is also urging airlines, themselves facing unprecedented challenges, to facilitate full refunds for flights that had been cancelled since the pandemic lockdown started in March.
Ritchie Tuano, PTAA president, said in a statement that the group sees provisions in the Bayanihan 2 bill “that could assist travel agencies both short and long term.”
“Most of our members are Department of Tourism-accredited. We just have to wait for it to be signed into law,” he said.
Bayanihan 2 proposes a P10 billion allocation to finance Department of Tourism programs to help stakeholders in the industry. At least P6 billion would be earmarked for soft loans for micro, small and medium enterprises in the sector. Some P3 billion would be for displaced tourism workers while the remaining P1 billion would be for tourism infrastructure projects.
The same bill also proposes a combined P45 billion from the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines to be allocated for low interest loans for tourism services including air, land and sea transportation, retail trade and accommodation.
The bill also carries a provision that would subsidize package tours that are needed to mitigate the economic fallout from COVID-19 in the tourism industry.
The PTAA is also asking 27 airlines for a full refund of at least P141 million due to travel agencies since March with the cancellation of flights as a result of the pandemic.
“We hope the airlines can expedite the process and release all refunds lodged consequent to the pandemic within a reasonable timeline,” Tuaño said. “These will be used to refund the respective clients of travel agencies who bought tickets from them.”
The 27 airlines included domestic carriers Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia. The international airlines on the list included Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International and Turkish Airlines.
“Airlines have been one of the travel agencies’ long-time partner in the tourism industry,” the PTAA chief said. “As the industry grew, they have thrived. Both sides need each other especially during this time of crisis.”
PTAA has 605 members operating nationwide, including 439 travel agencies that offer mixed services from being retailers, wholesalers, tour and transport operators. Its travel agencies have an average staffing of 10 employees.
Because of the pandemic, 419 of those travel agencies are temporarily closed with no timetable for the resumption of their operations. The rest are partially open to service clients with essential travel needs, mostly overseas Filipino workers and seafarers.
Along with the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, PTAA was part of a group of 51 organizations that pleaded for the retention of the P10 billion appropriation for the tourism industry in Bayanihan 2.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.