Closings and reconversions among the more than 600 local travel agencies

While most of the economic sectors pushed for permits to resume their activities, for travel agencies the announcement, on June 18, that they were authorized to serve the public in Córdoba again was bad news.

The reaction graphs the depth with which the sector (made up of some 630 companies according to their own estimates) is punished by the Covid-19 crisis: most of them try to survive with zero billing since the beginning of the quarantine and a panorama uncertain future at least until the end of the year.

In this framework, the sector rejected opening to the public, seen only as a rise in operating costs with no chances of making sales. The Cordovan Association of Travel Agencies (Acav) expressed discontent, which the Córdoba Tourism Agency noted.

Until now, the measure has not materialized, and the sector has been awaiting the creation of national operating protocols; a way to pause the decision.

No sales

“The sector is slowed down. There are air promotions that are going out, are for travel in 2021 and must be paid now. Something is sold but uncertainty prevails between clients and the agencies themselves, ”said Patricia de la Colina, Acav vice president.

The leader explained that the rejection of the possibility of opening is associated with the way in which most agencies operate: given the outlook, they were enabled to operate in telework until December, in principle. That led many to leave offices and premises to lower rental costs.

“That makes it very difficult to know how many closed, because they may be operating from homes,” he said.

Among those with employees, the agreements to pay salaries partially prevailed. And only a quota could access state aid programs, such as the Emergency Assistance to Work and Production (ATP).

“Obtaining ATPs was difficult due to the requirements: for example, having invoiced less this March than in 2019, since the dollar is worth twice as much. Among 5,450 agencies across the country, only seven percent accessed zero rate loans, “Guillermo Valdeolmillos, a reference in the group of Self-convened Travel Agents, listed.

From trips to wines

In this group, they put the total number of agencies in the province at 630, and estimate that each one employs at least three people (in the smallest, members of the owning family). Those of greater scale, multiply that establishment several times.

“We have zero turnover, beaten six months ago. First it was the 30 percent tax on the dollar and then the pandemic. The agencies are living on what little we had but many are no longer standing, although we cannot yet quantify the number, “he added.

“The cases of reconversions are multiplying: people who closed their agency and opened a greengrocer, a winery, or who even make masks,” stressed Valdeomillos.

The businessman pointed out that there are inquiries from passengers with the desire to travel abroad, but uncertainty prevails: about the future operation of the airlines, the closing or opening of borders and the evolution of the virus itself.

“Agencies are also victims of that uncertainty, for our clients and because we are jointly and severally responsible for what we sell,” he clarified. Domestic tourism does not offer a good panorama either: the provincial borders are still closed and the hotels too. When they can open, it will remain to know with what capacity they will be authorized and how that will impact the economic equation of each one.

The most optimistic forecast is to start having some activity from September, with a high chance that only in 2021 the movement can achieve a certain volume.

“The sector asks that the tourist emergency be declared, because we will have a very complicated return to activity, with passengers who do not want to reschedule their trips and demand money back, when the agency has already turned those funds over to foreign operators,” lamented the referent of the self-convened.