Travel agents ring alarm bell due to COVID-19, say their survival is at stake

Travel agents express concern as cancelations surge due to the disruption in the tourism industry caused globally by the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). Their survival is at stake, they say, and call for financial support from the state.

Speaking to the Press, Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) President, Vasilis Stamataris, said that travel agents are dealing solely with cancelations after COVID-19 and are even thinking to decrease office staff.

Travel agents ask to be considered for various state support schemes, and suggest, among others, suspending the payment of income tax, VAT and social security contributions.

“Our daily routine consists of cancellations and only cancellations. Our survival is at stake without financial support, while many of our members are considering ways to cope, including staff redundancies” Stamataris said.

He also noted that it appears that many travel agencies will cease their operation, dealing thus a blow to Cyprus tourism. ACTA represents 70% of incoming tourism and 100% of outgoing tourism, Stamataris added.

For travel agents March is considered a lost month, while April and perhaps even May are expected to record losses, while there are no bookings for Easter, he said.

Losses from the sale of travel packages are estimated at €30 mln, it was noted.

Travel agents still hope to revive bookings for the period after September, as well as for next year. They recalled that they sustained losses with the shutdown of airliners, as was the case with the collapse of Cobalt, that caused losses worth of €2 mln.

“We reached the point of zero sales” Stamataris said, adding that the state needs to act immediately, in order to protect jobs.

Stamataris also pointed to the problem caused after school trips were cancelled, in line with the instructions of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, which travel agents say are in conflict with the travel advisory issued by the Foreign Ministry.

ACTA Honorary President Akis Kelepeshis said that Cypriots are not cancelling their holidays, but are postponing them for a later date. He also noted that redundancies are very difficult, since 90% of businesses are family-run.

Source: Cyprus News Agency