Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. sees nothing wrong with some travel agency offices switching into “pasalubong centers” among other alternative businesses amid the ongoing pandemic deeming such a viable solution for income generation.
Boncato stressed however, that once travel operations resume, these temporary businesses will not be allowed anymore.
“Ang ating standard kasi (our standard is) there is a dedicated area just for travel agency operations and then, there’s a minimum space requirement for travel agency operations,” Boncato said in a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin.
“If some can proceed with it [other temporary businesses], it’s their call. Pero ang sinasabi lang natin (but what we are saying) from the point of view of DOT, once they resume operations, they still have to comply with the standards,” Boncato added.
In a separate text message, Ritchie Tuano, president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) confirmed a great majority of the 406 regular member travel agents from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao have since ventured into food trading and deliveries. While some, he said, have engaged in retailing COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, such as masks, face shields, UV (ultraviolet) box, as well as sanitizing materials.
At present, leisure travel remains suspended in most parts of the country.
The DOT, for its part, is now ramping up efforts for the gradual reopening of the industry.
Recent government-released statistics revealed that direct and indirect employment in tourism industries have increased in 2019 from 5.36 million to 5.71 million Filipino workers.