THE Cebu Alliance of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos) has called for an immediate tourism-specific recovery package to help the industry bounce back after almost five months of strict lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Alice Queblatin, Catos president, said part of the recovery package should be giving financial assistance to affected tourism operators and travel agencies to save the jobs of thousands of employees.
“For the past months we have been trying very hard to keep our employees intact and if it continues without any financial assistance in sight, I don’t know how we can handle the labor problems without resorting to termination or furlough. We want to believe that closing is never an option, so we need that financial assistance quite fast,” said Queblatin during the Visayas Area Business Conference.
In 2019, the Department of Tourism said the country’s tourism industry contributed 12 percent to the gross domestic product and employed almost six million Filipinos.
Queblatin stressed that the industry today needs a tourism-specific recovery package if only to stay afloat and save jobs.
“The tour operator and travel agencies face a lot of major concerns, which include loss of business opportunity and continuity, labor concerns of employees and domestic and international travel restrictions,” she said.
Aside from that, the industry also lacked the market to start its recovery.
“Even if we were asked to open, our question will be, ‘Who will be our market?’ There is just no market to whom we sell the services that we do,” she said.
The tourism industry has been the most hard-hit as the pandemic closed businesses and airports to avoid transmission.
“The business impact of Covid-19 to the travel industry is not severe because it is rather extremely severe. Almost a hundred percent of the 2,000 DOT-accredited travel agencies in the Philippines are not doing any business. There is just no opportunity to do the core business of a travel agency and a tour operator,” she said.
Queblatin said the battle cry of tourism, particularly in their sector, is to save Philippine tourism.
She proposed several solutions in collaboration with the government, which include the facilitation and immediate release of financial assistance in Bayanihan 2; gather stakeholders to craft a National Tourism Restart Plan; accelerate the creation of travel bubbles between identified municipalities, cities, provinces and countries; and review border controls for possible leisure travel into the Philippines.