Travel agents are calling for more help from the Government in light of the severe financial impact they have suffered as a result of the pandemic.
The President of FATTA told Television Malta that although they have benefited from the wage supplement, travel agents needed other financial incentives to cope with what was happened. This, as they are obliged by law to refund money to customers whose holidays have been canceled in the months following the outbreak of Covid.
Travel agents are stuck because they wanted to give their customers a refund. At the same time not all tour operators are obliged by law to refund this money, including passenger shipping companies and hotels.
“It’s a disastrous situation. In the sense that people paid money to go on holiday, the agents had paid for hotels abroad, paid the airlines to book people’s seats and for groups we were going to have in the summer, cruiseliners, agents booked the cabins … ”
This same sentiment was expressed by other travel agents who said that a year has passed and although it seems like there might be a ray of light, they will continue to suffer the financial consequences of holidays that have been canceled in recent months.
In comments to TVM, the President of the Association of Travel Agents, FATTA Iain Tonna, said that the association has put forward a number of proposals for the Government, including an interest-free grant or loan for travel agents, to be able to honor their obligations to customers without fail. In some cases, Mr Tonna said the money would never come back.
“There are airlines that have gone bankrupt now, so I’m sure we won’t get any money back. How can I give you the money from a bankrupt airline which won’t give me the money. Should I pay it myself?”
Interviewed on Insights on TVM, Airmalta Executive Chairman David Curmi said that the national airline had issued € 22 million in refunds to customers whose flights were canceled, while it issued 70,000 vouchers to those who did not want their money back.
Mr Tonna said travel agents had benefited from the wage supplement, however he appealed to the authorities to give this sector more financial support.
“Our sales since March 13 have been zero. Whoever has paid employees for a year has been paying them without an income i.e. in the hope that when work picks up he will have the right staff to with him. ”
Although travel agents are confident that during this summer, there will be a shift, they are still of the opinion that it will be quite a few more months until they recover and reap the profits they used to make before the pandemic broke out.