Cebu tour operators suffer ‘financial distress’

·3 min read

THE slump in demand for travel coupled with varying policies among local government units (LGUs) is hindering the recovery of the tour and travel businesses in Cebu.

In fact, even with the various recovery efforts of the private and public sectors and the gradual return of local tourism, Desiree “Cookie” Chan, general manager of Southwind Travel and Tours, said these haven’t resolved the depleting financial resources of the sector.

“Business continuity is still our biggest challenge. As far as financial planning is concerned, the travel situation has not improved. In fact, it has worsened as we entered the middle of 2021,” said Chan during the 2021 Cebu Business Month Tourism Coffee Table Discussion Thursday, June 3, 2021.

Chan said the government’s Covid-19 task force’s cap of 300 international arrivals daily, required quarantine protocols for 10 days, abrupt diversion of flights and unpredictable closing of borders have discouraged travel.

She also pointed out that domestic tourism is not appealing at this time due to the non-uniformity of quarantine protocols among provinces and cities, with some of them enforcing policies that are too complicated to comply with.

“With this dismal situation, the sector is in financial distress to survive because of continuing overhead costs, big slump in market demand due to unavailability of flights, unpredictable border closures and inadequate market intelligence support,” said Chan.

Closed

Since the Covid-19 pandemic surfaced, Chan said, “majority of travel establishments in Cebu have temporarily closed for over a year now. Some have relocated to a work-from-home arrangement, if not ceased to operate at all, due to the slump in the market demand for both inbound and outbound guests coupled with the uncertainty of when travel will really restart.”

“While local tourism has slowly revived, Cebu residents book services like hotels, transportation and destination activities directly by themselves. As a service company, our core business comes from out-of-town clients who need us to package tour components for their convenience, safety and security. However, these have not resolved our depleting financial resources,” she said.

Chan said the sector is appealing to the Department of Tourism to set clearer policies with a timeline for a restart or a relevant forecast to guide tour and travel stakeholders in making informed decisions and action plans such as the study of the fully vaccinated market.

The sector also wants the government to craft economic driven resolutions for protocols such as shortened quarantine periods, increased international arrivals and clarity and stability of entry and exit rules for Cebu and the country “to be viewed favorably and be trusted by travelers.”

The sector also seeks financial incentives like tax breaks from 2020 to 2022 and medical and health subsidies for tourism workers as they can no longer be covered by the company’s existing budgets.

Chan said the sectors have crafted better plans to help revive Cebu’s tourism sector, but she reminded all stakeholders to address the basic issues first for Cebu’s tourism to sustainably recover. (KOC)

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