Travel agencies still coping, expect state recovery aid

Ljubljana – Travel agencies, which have not been able to provide services to consumers or organise trips for the majority of the past year due to the Covid-19 measures, are not doing well, but the situation is not yet “tragic”. They have been eligible for state aid and the state is also expected to help them restart their activity in full.

In the past year, travel agencies in Slovenia have received state aid in various forms – for a few months, the state covered their fixed costs, and they also have around 80% of the costs for furloughed employees covered.

As Mišo Mrvaljević, the secretary general of the Association of Slovenian Travel Agencies (ZTAS), has assessed for the STA, agencies practically do not have any work, and they “hover around three to five percent of the usual turnover.”

Agencies are only organising some business trips and arrange some other urgent services, which means that they are being gradually drained financially. “We are not doing great, but things are not tragic yet,” he said.

Agencies are not closing their doors yet, with the exception of some that had had difficulties before the pandemic, and are trying to keep their employees. According to Mrvaljević, almost thee-fourths of all employees have been retained.

“We count on […] getting additional aid and, with our own effort, the operations are expected to get back to normal in three to five years,” Mrvaljević said, adding that vaccination rates would also be a major factor in the reopening of tourism.

Tour operators welcome the decision of the Economy Ministry to draft a special stimulus law for the tourism sector, which has been one of the most affected sectors that is expected to need the most time to recover from the pandemic.

“A special law is needed. What we want first and foremost is that the state helps us cover losses generated by the lockdown, prohibition of operation and inability to provide services to consumers,” the ZTAS secretary general said.

He noted that segments within the sector have been affected differently. “For this reason, we think that the emergency law must proportionately assist all stakeholders so that the crisis is survived with minimum damage and that we can start anew.”

While there will be no organised trips over the Easter holidays, tour operators hope they will be able to take their clients to some countries during the May Day holidays and in the summer, as the interest is immense.

According to Mrvaljević, the offerings of destinations are currently very limited, as only those with an acceptable epidemiological situation are acceptable, while they also have to be open for Slovenian tourists.

He assessed that in the peak season, Slovenian tourists could count on Euro-Mediterranean destinations, such as parts of Italy and Spain, Greece, Croatia and perhaps Malta and Cyprus.