Travel Agent NewsAsiaReps Travel Services' Ritchie Tuano talks about managing the anxiety that comes with post-Covid flying.

Understanding the post-Covid traveller psyche

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Ritchie Tuano, general manager, AsiaReps Travel Services believes that post-Covid most people will test their comfort level for travel by beginning with regional trips first.
Ritchie Tuano, general manager, AsiaReps Travel Services believes that post-Covid most people will test their comfort level for travel by beginning with regional trips first.

Like many in the travel industry, Ritchie Tuano, general manager, AsiaReps Travel Services was no stranger to frequent flying around the world for leisure and business travel prior to Covid-19. The Manila-based travel specialist shares his views on the new world of flying following months of non-travel.

I think vaccine will be the ultimate game-changer. Covid testing will be a game-changer for essential travel and motivate travel on a small scale.– Ritchie Tuano, AsiaReps Travel Services

Looking into 2021, what are your expectations and projections?

Whether domestically or internationally, there are only a few destinations to sell and many travel agents sharing the market, so it will take time to recover and bounce back. If there’s any consolation, things are moving forward albeit very slowly.

The advantage of the Philippines is that we have a big domestic market. That will be something we all look forward to in terms of business coming in. Volume wise, the domestic market is as significant as international, but as far as revenues are concerned for travel agents there’s more revenue coming from international packages than domestic. Domestic travellers do DIY trips and that takes a lot of travel agents out of the equation.

The upside? The value of travel agents has shone during the pandemic. Having gone through the difficulties of getting refunds from hotels, airlines and other suppliers, travellers are now relying on travel agencies to arrange their travel needs as opposed to DIY for that. There is a window of hope for us.

What prospects are there in selling international destinations?

Not much yet. There are enquiries but the biggest hurdle is about when clients are told of the PCR test requirement. There are several destinations which are accepting Filipinos at the moment but only a few are of interest to them. For example, the US is open but the cases in the US have spiked, so it’s not really considered by the Filipinos. Elsewhere, the UAE, Oman and Turkey are opening up to Filipinos.

However, I believe Filipinos might want to start travelling in Asia and not prefer any longhaul trips now. They want to dip their feet and test the waters on how comfortable they can be when they travel.

You recently visited Singapore to attend TravelRevive. How did you feel about travelling internationally during this period?

When I first received the news that Singapore Tourism Board invited me, I was excited to get on a plane again after such a long time. On the travellers’ side, aside from the additional cost of insurances and Covid testing, my personal observation is more of the anxiety of going through testing before a flight that makes travellers uncomfortable.

One is going through the experience of a nasal swap, which a lot of people are keen to avoid no matter how much they wish to travel. The other experience is waiting for the result to come out without knowing whether it would be positive or negative. The anxiety while waiting, even for a brief period of time, can sometimes too much for one person to bear.

Between vaccine vs Covid testing, which do you think will be a game-changer in reviving global travel?

I think vaccine will be the ultimate game-changer. Covid testing will be a game-changer for essential travel and motivate travel on a small scale.

Most countries require travellers to take PCR tests within 72 hours before departure. But within the 72 hours there are many interactions we go through before boarding a flight, which means there’s still an amount of Covid-19 exposure, so that’s the other worry for some travellers in mind when they do the PCR tests.

Yes, people want to travel but will skip it until they are sure for themselves and the people that they’re travelling with are shielded or armed against Covid.

There’s a need to emphasise and over-emphasise the safety protocols and how Covid is transmitted. Covid will be here for the longest time whether we like it or not, so we really need to learn how to live with it by practising proper hygiene and sanitation. I always say, ‘Let’s control Covid rather than have Covid controlling our lives.’

I think vaccine will be the ultimate game-changer. Covid testing will be a game-changer for essential travel and motivate travel on a small scale.– Ritchie Tuano, AsiaReps Travel Services

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