One of the biggest blows that the novel coronavirus struck on businesses in the country and around the world was done by virtue of its timing. When the rise in positive cases caused the beginning of lengthy travel bans and community lockdowns the travel and tourism industry was savaged earnings-wise. Not only have travel plans been cancelled and reserved tickets refunded, travel agencies find themselves in dire straits to pay employees and staff, plus cover operational expenses. Said expenses also include paying permits and taxes to the government. With the agencies unable to do business, they are asking for a stay in their governmental obligations.
As CNN Philippines tells it, the country’s travel agencies under the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) is expressing hope that the national government can offer them relief from their commitments in permits and taxation while they are kept shut down by necessity during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Ritchie Tuaño, president of the PTAA, comments that they would like the government to cut them a break from these necessary but financially expensive obligations, which he points out are being called for by governmental regulatory boards, even when aware that the businesses are closed and could not make money during the lockdowns.
This is only one facet of the problem for the travel agencies. While for the most part they are still not able to take on clients, these outfits have been allowed to open in areas of the Philippines under general community quarantine (GCQ) at least, with skeletal levels of active personnel only. Its purpose is to process refunds from customers unable to do so before the start of lockdown months ago, as well as pay their suppliers. That, according to Tuaño, leaves their business barely solvent when it comes next to settling permits and taxes.
Fortunately a stimulus package is in the process of being approved by the House of Representatives to help the travel agency sector and allied businesses. Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, notes that there are P58 billion out of a total P1.3 trillion from the ARISE Philippines stimulus package, that has been earmarked for the travel and tourism industry. Added to that is the P140 billion that the sector can expect from the Senate’s “Bayanihan 2” bill proposal. Together, this amount can cover interest-free loans for travel and tourism businesses, facility enhancement in compliance to health protocols, and product marketing.
Figures provided by Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat would have it that the Philippine tourism industry has no less than 5.4 million workers and employees, most of which cannot work because the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered their workplaces.
Image from PTAA Website