Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Travel Agencies Waiting for Decision on Extension of COVID Support Measures

ZAGREB, 26 Jan 2022 - Travel agencies in Croatia are still waiting for a decision by the competent authorities regarding the extension of job-keeping measures for the first few months of 2022, which was announced as a possibility at the end of 2021, UHPA said on Wednesday.

President of the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA) Tomislav Fain said that their business is still jeopardized, their activities are still doubtful due to the pandemic, and turnover last year was only at 65% of that in 2019.

"We still do not have precise information about whether the measures will be extended for agencies or not. We hope they will because Labour Minister (Josip) Aladrović announced their extension at the end of 2021 for the most vulnerable activities and agencies certainly are. The new wave of the pandemic spreading at the start of 2022 is additionally hampering our business, there is hardly any or no work at all," Fain told Hina.

UHPA appealed for job-keeping measures to be extended for travel agencies which until now had encompassed about 3,000 travel agents.

Travel agencies have registered huge losses and decreased revenue. Their business is constantly uncertain which is evident in the results of a survey in which UHPA members said their revenue in 2021 was 65% of that in 2019.

This has also been confirmed by Croatian Bureau of Statistics figures showing that in the first nine months of 2021, revenue decreased by 65% compared with the same period of 2019, and if 2020 is compared with 2019, the decrease in revenue was even higher, more than 80%, said Fain.

"Due to the poor situation, we appeal to the government, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy to extend job-keeping measures for travel agencies in the coming months, starting from January 2022. That is the only way agencies will manage to keep their workers and somehow prepare for the coming spring-summer season," said Fain.

Last year's good results in tourism occurred primarily due to the better epidemiological situation and by no means as a sign of recovery of organized tourism trends, and the continuation of job-keeping measures for travel agencies continues to be a key condition for their recovery and survival, concluded Fain.

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Thursday, 20 May 2021

Travel Agencies Facing Collapse, Urge Gov't to Help Them

ZAGREB, 20 May 2021 - The UHPA association of travel agencies has called on the government to urgently decide to extend its job-retention scheme and to compensate travel agencies for fixed costs, considering that so far this year they have seen a drop in turnover of more than 90%.

"For six months now we have been negotiating intensively with government officials about a compensation model to help salvage travel agencies. We have the support of Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac and believe it is high time to start with financial assistance for preparation for the season and for the normalisation of activities, as announced by PM Plenković," UHPA president Tomislav Fain said.

He noted that yet another crisis tourist season was about to begin and the only thing travel agencies could count on was the uncertainty of whether the pandemic would continue spreading, whether the epidemiological situation would be kept under control and what tourist movement would be like.

"Apart from job-keeping support, which as a measure of horizontal assistance has been introduced also by other EU countries, Croatia has not secured for private businesses in tourism any grant scheme, which is what other member countries, notably those whose GDP, like Croatia's, relies heavily on tourism, have done," said Fain.

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Thursday, 4 March 2021

Croatian Travel Agency Association Finally Succeeds, State Aid Arriving

March the 4th, 2021 - Croatian travel agencies have been by far the hardest hit by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as travel for tourism and leisure remains almost impossible. Luckily, but following many appeals, the Croatian Travel Agency Association has finally been heard by the government and state aid is on the way.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian Travel Agency Association (UHPA) has welcomed the recently announced decision of the Croatian Government to include tourist agencies in the measures for state aid/compensation for endangered economic activities. Although better late than never, it is difficult to understand how those representing Croatia´s most lucrative economic branch were not taken care of far earlier.

"I´m going to say just one word - finally. Finally, the requests and appeals we´ve been sending out to the relevant ministry and the Croatian Government for months, warning of the difficult situation in which the tourism industry, and especially travel agencies find themselves find themselves, have borne fruit,¨ said Tomislav Fain, President of the Croatian Travel Agency Association.

According to the data of the Tax Administration and the Central Bureau of Statistics (CES), the average decline in the economic activities undertaken by Croatian travel agencies during 2020 was continuously above 85 percent. These utterly devastating results carry even more weight if we take into account the fact that these are mostly small and medium-sized family businesses that, in order to ensure the liquidity of the business, among other things, were forced to sell off their own assets.

The Croatian Travel Agency Association has therefore persistently sent out proposals for assistance and compensation models to the competent state institutions, following the example of other EU member states, which have adopted measures aimed exclusively at travel agencies and tour operators, aware of the gravity of the problem and the possible consequences of their illiquidity.

"None of us are happy with the helplessness we´ve found ourselves in, nor with the uncertainty from month to month as to whether the subsidies for preserving jobs will be extended, but we can't do this. Instead of planning spring trips across Europe and looking forward to the arrival of the first guests for the Easter holidays, we find ourselves in a situation where state measures are our only means of salvation. As, unfortunately, the end of the pandemic is not yet in sight, we´re faced with the problem of unrealised trips and we´re as such highlighting the need for changes in the legislation and the announced state aid programme, as it is extremely important in order to restore the damaged trust of our customers,¨ added Fain.

"Tourism as we knew it before the pandemic is now a thing of the past. While we´re dealing with our multiple existential problems and fighting for survival, the battle for each guest is well underway. It is high time that we all move from words to deeds and everyone in their segment needs to give their all and we need to justify the title we have given ourselves as the best destination in the Mediterranean,¨ concluded the President of the Croatian Travel Agency Association.

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Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Vouchers for Unused Trips Approved, Croatian Travel Agencies Pleased

April 8, 2020 - The Croatian Travel Agencies Association is grateful that their proposal to offer travel vouchers has been approved. 

HRTurizam reports that on Tuesday in Parliament, along with a package of other measures aimed at mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes were also made to the Law on Emergency Tourism Services, which allowed travel agencies to issue vouchers instead of refunding passengers for package arrangements.

"We are grateful to the Ministry of Tourism, the Croatian Government, and the Parliament for accepting our proposals to allow issuing vouchers for unfulfilled travel agreements that should have occurred in these extraordinary circumstances, i.e., after March 1, 2020. The passenger is fully protected as they receive a voucher they can use for another trip or a deferred travel period once the situation calms," said UHPA President Tomislav Fain.

Fain also added that the voucher would be covered by the already arranged bail to protect travel agencies from going bankrupt. 

"The traveler is also entitled to a refund if he or she does not wish to use the previously paid and booked travel, upon expiry of 180 days from the termination date of the special circumstances, and for a full refund within 14 days."

"As members of the European Association of National Travel Agencies and Travel Organizers (ECTAA), we have engaged in negotiations with the European Commission, which has instructed consumers to accept travel delays and vouchers. In communication with ECTAA colleagues from many countries such as France, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland who, in cooperation with their Governments, have also introduced a voucher in some form, we have come to a satisfactory solution and we are very pleased. We are glad that both our Ministry of Tourism and the Government has accepted the proposal and have a strong understanding of the sector, which is in an unprecedentedly difficult situation," said the President of the Association of Travel Agencies, HGK Boris Žgomba, also a member of the Board of Directors of ECTAA.

The agencies, apart from the new bookings and inflow of any funds stalled since February, could not even reach the funds for the already booked trips as the money had already been passed on to others in the package like airlines and hotels.

Most of the same refunds were provided to agencies in the form of deposits, vouchers, time delays and often nothing. In previously applicable provisions of the Act that transposed the EU Directive, travel agencies were in a difficult situation and forced to bear the brunt of the crisis on their own, even before the further escalation in the rest of the economy.

Already in the HGK and UHPA polls in February, 92 percent felt strong and medium adverse effects on long-term business, as school trips, congresses, and business trips stopped, along with restrictions on international travel and guest arrivals from Asia and other focal countries. This impact has only increased over the past month, with the closure of all borders and activities.

Of the 2061 registered travel agency companies and tour operators, 99.3% of them are small or micro-companies, and these losses represent an enormous blow to business, and as often are family businesses, this is directly the income of their entire families.

The Association of Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA) and the Association of Travel Agencies (UPA HGK) represent the leading professional associations in tourism that represent the interests of over 2000 registered companies for the activity of travel agencies and tour operators and employ nearly 6,500 people.

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