SHI YU/CHINA DAILY
Various measures aim to help travel agencies hard hit by the epidemic
A series of measures have been included in a recently issued guideline to boost the confidence of Chinese tourism market operators and workers who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism said that although the national industry is recovering thanks to the tireless efforts to contain the epidemic and previous support measures, the tourism industry is not yet out of the situation. difficult. Indeed, services for tourists wishing to leave or enter the mainland remain suspended, as sporadic outbreaks continue to impact the recovery.
The ministry said the number of domestic trips and tourism-related revenue generated in 2020 decreased by 52.1% and 51%, respectively, compared to 2019.
The situation improved last year, since the two indices only experienced respective drops of 46% and 49% compared to 2019, before the start of the epidemic.
To help restore the development of tourism and related service industries like accommodation and transport sectors, 14 central departments including the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Culture and Tourism, jointly released a policy late last month.
He outlined seven specific measures to help tour operators and their staff, including guidelines on travel service deposits, unemployment insurance and cooperation with financial institutions.
According to the policy, China will continue to reimburse travel agencies for 80% of travel service deposits – which are used, for example, to reimburse customers if an agency fails to meet national standards – and will encourage provinces and regions in a better financial position to increase repayment levels.
He also suggested that provinces and regions with surplus funds collected for unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation could allow tourism businesses to defer insurance payments for up to a year, while exempting late fees.
Financial institutions are urged to cooperate with tour operators to channel more investment into A-rated attractions, resorts and hotels with good development prospects, and to provide more flexible lines of credit.
In addition, the policy encourages administrative services and units to contract their team building activities with travel agencies.
Sun Guizhen, general secretary of the China Travel Services Association, said the policy strongly supports travel agencies’ efforts to undertake official business, which will help restore regular operations.
Sun said travel agencies have standardized management and experience in offering services, which can help reduce the cost of organizing official activities.
“In particular, travel agencies that offered inbound and outbound travel services that have been badly hit by the epidemic can get involved in official activities, travel and exhibitions to boost development,” he said. she stated.
Qiu Yinhao, vice president of Xband Tourism Group, which is headquartered in Shanghai and focuses on managing homestays, welcomed the policy.
“Politics is of great importance to tour operators,” he said. “It gives us confidence that we can restore our business after enduring severe challenges caused by the outbreak.”
Qiu recalled the difficult times Xband had in the beginning.
“I remember it was the Spring Festival holiday of 2020, the time when we normally have good business,” he said. “The COVID-19 outbreak has inflicted great economic losses. We have fully and unconditionally refunded our consumers. To help us through the hardships, our partners and the local government have given us stipends and rent refunds. “
Liu Dong, director of the public affairs department of online travel agency Tuniu, said his company, which has been trying to improve its development over the past two years, now has more confidence thanks to the new Politics.
“The whole industry, including tourism, hotels and restaurants, has faced great challenges due to the epidemics, and domestic tourism businesses remain in a protracted battle,” he said. declared.
He added that the agency is considering taking steps to improve its ability to deal with emergencies as the tourism market has changed due to the outbreak.
“We are considering a way to create more new products to offer our users. This is something travel agencies should consider to help stabilize business and make progress amid normalized epidemic control measures. “
Despite the tough times, tour operators said they were optimistic about the future market recovery and development and looked forward to the benefits the supportive policy will bring.
“While the policy cannot fundamentally solve the problems we have faced so far, it shows that the government is firmly behind the recovery of the tourism industry. This will help stabilize the market and relieve the pressures that we face,” Zou Qingling said. , CEO of Lvmama, an online travel service provider.
It will also help companies retain talent and boost high-quality industry development, she added.
Xband’s Qiu added that he wants the government to focus on the whole tourism service industry, not just travel agencies, hotels and attractions, but also villages and families in hospitality that play an active role in the development of rural tourism.
“We look forward to seeing the implementation of the policy and its good results,” he said.