Travel agents are still waiting for refunds from suppliers. Such as airlines, cruise lines, hotels, tour operators, and travel consolidators
Travel agencies ask public for patience in processing refunds
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) is appealing for the public’s understanding of issuing refunds. Emphasizing that the government’s move to allow operations of travel agencies does not hasten the refund process.
“While the government has allowed travel agents to operate, the problem and issue remain the same.
Travel agents are still waiting for refunds from suppliers. Such as the airlines, cruise lines, hotels, tour operators, and travel consolidators,” the PTAA said in an open letter to the public.
On Friday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has approved the reopening of travel agencies in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas – but on the limited workforce.
This will allow travel agencies to do administrative work such as processing of refunds and payments to suppliers.
“The IATF announcement did not change or hasten this refund process in any way. Without receiving the amount from our suppliers, we are hindered from returning these to you as well,” the PTAA said.
“We plead, as we have done so the past months, for your continued patience and understanding. Most of our key people have been working hard from home processing refunds and coordinating with suppliers remotely to make sure you get your refunds back as soon as possible,” it added.
The PTAA emphasized that travel agents are also small business owners affected by the pandemic.
“Despite being allowed to operate, the fact remains that international and non-essential travel remains prohibited,” the PTAA said.
“Travel agents still cannot generate income to sustain even minimal skeletal operations without travel demand and with zero revenues. Please understand why we choose to have our offices remain closed,” it added.
In a letter to the Department of Tourism (DOT) dated May 11, the PTAA earlier recommended that travel agencies be allowed to open on a voluntary basis.
“We requested the endorsement to the IATF to allow travel agencies to open their offices on a voluntary basis; since there are a number of them who service non-leisure travel markets such as, but not limited to OFW (overseas Filipino worker), ship’s crew movements. Including those of non-Filipino nationals, returning stranded overseas Filipinos, BPO (business process outsourcing) with expatriates, embassies, etc.,” PTAA president Ritchie Tuano told The STAR earlier.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) president, Jose Clemente III, echoed Tuano’s sentiment.
“We leave it to the discretion of the companies who want to open,” Clemente said, adding that travel agencies who opt to open should strictly follow health and safety protocols.
The TCP also requested that those who opt to remain closed – until allowed by the IATF – to continue to enjoy the grace periods, moratoriums and whatever wage subsidies applicable as they still do not expect any sources of revenue while closed.
Tourism is among the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
Estimated inbound tourism revenues for the first half of the year dropped 66.7 percent to P81.05 billion, from P243.1 billion recorded over the same period last year. Foreign visitor arrivals from January to June also dropped to 1.3 million, a 68 percent plunge.
Phl needs to build trust of tourists
The Philippine tourism sector will have to build the trust of travelers to be able to get a share of global tourists when international travel eventually returns.
“Ultimately, the new currency for tourism is going to be trust, and we have to compete with the rest of the world,” Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. said.
To be able to build that trust, Boncato said the tourism industry must be ready to follow health and safety standards. Thus creating confidence among travelers.
“Everyone needs to understand that we must follow these standards for us to be able to return, and restart tourism,” Boncato said.
The DOT ( Department of Tourism )
The DOT is working with local government units to determine their confidence level in restarting tourism in their respective areas.
“And the DOT is showing them that we have standards, systems and processes in place. This will help each stakeholder to meet the minimum health standards that we are pushing for,” he added.
The DOT earlier issued “new normal” health and safety guidelines for hotels in accordance with the minimum public health standards. These have been set by the Department of Health (DOH).
These standards cover kitchens, food and beverage service, sanitation, and disinfection. Also important is the guest handling, reception, and concierge, rooms, housekeeping, public areas, and transportation.
It also issued separate guidelines for dine-in operations of accredited restaurants. These are following the adoption of the joint recommendation of the DOT and Department of Trade and Industry by the IATF.
Moreover, Boncato also emphasized that domestic tourism will be the catalyst to restart tourism in the country.
As well as tourism stakeholders, said earlier that domestic tourism will be the first to recover compared to the international tourism market as travel restrictions remain in place globally.
Results of the Philippine Travel Survey Report:
Insights of Filipino Travelers’ Sentiments on the New Normal, conducted by the DOT, the Asian Institute of Management Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism and Guide to the Philippines. This shows that 77 percent of respondents said they are willing to travel domestically even in the absence of a proven vaccine.
In addition, 48 percent said they will travel within six months from the lifting of travel restrictions.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat had said that local government units are eyeing a slow but sure reopening of their local tourist spots. All in line with ensuring safety protocols are properly in place.
Last month, the island of Boracay opened up for tourism, particularly to tourists from the Western Visayas region.
The province of Palawan recently announced that it is eyeing to open El Nido First. Then if all goes well, and No Outbreak of COVID-19, Coron and San Vicente for tourism will be opened. This is a trial and a dry run with El Nido Resorts.
Article courtesy of Catherine Talavera The Philippine Star