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Tourism firms fret over survival; seek vaccines

Infographic courtesy of DOT/AIM/GTP

THE country’s tourism enterprises live in a constant state of worry during this pandemic, and believe that the stability of public health will be the minimum requirement to fast-track the recovery of their sector.

In “The Philippine Travel Survey Report: The Evolving Landscape of Domestic Travel in the Philippines” by the Department of Tourism (DOT), Asian Institute of Management, and Guide to the Philippines, among the 108 respondents’ pressing concerns are insufficient funds (86 percent of respondents) and inadequate cash flow (84 percent). Also, they are anxious about the loss of key employees (49 percent), permanent business closure (47 percent), and “damage to the brand” (37 percent).

Of the total respondents, 44 percent were tour operators, 35 percent were in the accommodation business, while 21 percent were in retail, food and beverage, etc.  Sixty-two percent are family-owned enterprises, while the rest are not.

At least 31 percent of these tourism enterprises believe that a proven vaccine is a “requirement for a fast tourism recovery,” and 24 percent added, faster and cheaper testing is key. About 20 percent said a commercially viable vaccine will definitely help fast-track the recovery, while the rest said it would be declining new cases (10 percent), rising recovery (8 percent), and an effective and cheaper Covid cure (6 percent).

Deterrence to travel

At present, they think the testing and quarantine requirements, along with the various permits demanded by local government units, discourage people from traveling (42 percent of respondents). This supports the DOT’s view for the need of standardized health and safety protocols among destinations now open for inbound travel.

Most respondents are small-to medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), with 70 percent of tour operators indicating they were capitalized up to P3 million, while 39 percent of the accommodation establishments were capitalized between P15 million and P100 million, and 37 percent of the latter up to P3 million. Bulk of “Others” (retail, F&B, etc.) were capitalized up to P3 million (48 percent), and P3 million-P15 million (26 percent).

Of those surveyed, 21.2 percent were located in the National Capital Region (NCR), 15.2 percent were from Bulacan, 11.1 percent Pampanga, 6.1 percent Bataan, and 46.5 percent were from several other locations.

Of the 67 family enterprises, 97 percent said they had to adjust their family lifestyle to cope with the pandemic and 93 percent provided financial assistance to their employees. Seventy-six percent also infused personal funds into their business, 72 percent received pay cuts, 69 percent provided financial assistance to their family/relatives, and 67 percent provided financial assistance to the community.

Marketing, cash aid needed from DOT

Despite the financial assistance programs made available to the tourism sector via the DOT and the Department of Labor and Employment (Cash-for-Work), and the DOT-Department of Trade and Industry (CARES for Travel under the Small Business Corp.), most respondents are still urgently asking for financial aid.

A huge 82 percent require marketing and promotions for the new normal environment of the industry from the DOT; financial support to sustain tourism businesses and employment (79 percent), market and product development (71 percent), protection of tourism workers (71 percent), appropriate communication and dissemination of accurate information during pandemic (69 percent), policy support to help financial and business solvency (66 percent), assistance to tourists/travelers affected by the pandemic (66 percent), development of travel bubbles and green corridors to restart tourism activities (64 percent), development and enforcement of new normal standards (63 percent), Philippine tourism investment promotion (53 percent), among others.

Yet the DOT-DOLE reported that only 158,166 workers received P790.83 million in cash aid of P5,000 each as of February 2. Under the Bayanihan 2 Law, some P3 billion in funds was made available for the tourism sector.

(See, “Habal-habal drivers covered by DOT-DOLE aid,” in the BusinessMirror, February 5, 2021.)

Under the SB Corp’s facility, only 415 loan applications amounting to some P247.52 million had been processed as of December 29, 2020. Bayanihan 2 provided P6 billion in funds for direct loans to tourism enterprises.

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