‘Travel bubble’ in near term

June 12, 2020

Many countries have closed their borders to foreign travelers due to the coronavirus disease 2019  pandemic and now takes toll on the tourism industry.

According to the latest bulletin of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Covid-19 pandemic would set back international tourism arrivals by 58 percent to 78 percent by end 2020.

The APEC Tourism Working Group also noted that the impact of the Covid-19 to the tourism industry is five times that of the 2008 financial crisis.

Of the total 75 million jobs at risk worldwide, 2.1 percent is from travel and tourism industry.

As the lockdown measures of different countries have grounded flights, big airline companies have filed for bankruptcy including Latin America’s largest airline Avianica and Thailand’s flag carrier Thai Airways.

This week, Emirates also announced its second wave of job cuts as it laid off 600 pilots and 6,500 cabin crew.

In an online forum of the German-Philippines Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Blue Horizons Travel and Tours, Inc. general manager Gregor Zajc gave a picture of the country’s tourism industry before and during the pandemic.

In 2019, the country recorded 8.26 million of international visitors, 15 percent higher than the figures in 2018.

Top sources of foreign visitors in the country in 2019 were South Korea, China, the United States, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Singapore, and Malaysia.

The sector contributed 12.7 percent to the Philippine economy employing 5.4 million people.

With the Covid-19 outbreak and quarantine measures implemented since middle of March, tourist arrivals in the country fell by 54 percent to 1.3 million from January to April 2020 from 2.8 million visitors in the same period last year.

Zajc added that hotels, travel agencies, and tourism establishments are closing as they can no longer absorb the impact of the pandemic to their businesses.

To lessen the damage in the travel and tourism sector, Zajc said stakeholders are adapting measures so travelers can fly again.

He noted that certain countries would forge agreements whereas they would be allowing travel only between the nationals of these countries, or the travel bubble.

He cited that Australia and New Zealand are in talks for a travel bubble between their countries.

Zajc added that similar initiatives are being done in Association of Southeast Asian Nations, where the Philippines is a member country.

“The industry is actively working on to enable possible travelers,” Zajc said.

He added that traveling within neighboring countries through travel- bubble agreements is more likely in the near future than flying across continents.

For instance, it is now seen that there are lesser flights between Asia and Europe, while airfares are also expected to increase, which would be the key challenges for travelers for long haul flights.

Zajc remains optimistic with the travel and tourism industry despite a challenging environment brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There’s the motivation and desire from travelers that they want to travel again,” Zajc said.

For his firm, he said they are receiving bookings for the future starting November onwards.

“We are receiving bookings, although not at the level we had before, but there’s the desire from travelers,” he added.

He said the top things that travelers are considering before their trips are flexible booking conditions, healthy, and safe environment in their travel destination, and travel deals.