Like many in the travel industry, Ritchie Tuano, general manager,
AsiaReps Travel Services was a frequent flyer (for business and leisure)
prior to Covid-19. The Manila-based travel specialist shares his views
on the new world of flying following months of non-travel.
What are your expectations and projections for travel in 2021 and beyond?
Whether domestically or internationally, there are only a few
destinations that are open, so it will take time to recover and bounce
back. If there’s any consolation, things are moving forward albeit very
The upside? The value of travel managers 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 pitching 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
rather than travelling long haul. 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 invitation from the Singapore Tourism Board
I was excited to get on a plane again after such a long time. Aside
from the additional cost of insurance and Covid testing, the anxiety
around testing before a flight 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 be too much for one
person to bear.
Between vaccination and Covid testing, which do you think will be a game-changer in reviving global travel?
I think a vaccine will be the ultimate game-changer. Covid testing
will be a game-changer for essential travel and motivate travel on a
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 when they do the PCR tests.
Yes, people want to travel but will skip it until they're sure that they 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 to live with it by
practising proper hygiene and sanitation. I always say, ‘Let’s control
Covid rather than have Covid controlling our lives.’