– The crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has revealed how little we know about the outbound tourism market. The Tourist Guarantee Fund could fill this gap – says the Vice President of the Insurance Guarantee Fund Marek Niecharzenia, supervising TFG.
Number of contracts concluded by travel agencies with clients compared to last year's fall by 30%t – show data of the Tourist Guarantee Fund. At the same time the number of contracts reported as terminated (canceled) increased by 70 percent. In this situation, TFG recorded a decline in revenues – while in February 2019 it received 4.5 million zlotys, in February 2020 only 3.4 million zlotys, 25 percent less.
The decrease was most noticeable in two categories of trips. 40 percent of customers lost, compared to February 2019, events organized inside the country and to neighboring countries, as well as trips abroad using means of transport other than charters. However, the loss in charter amounted to 12 percent. In absolute terms, this means that travel agencies have concluded 28 thousand less contracts for charter trips, 43 thousand less for foreign events organized by “other means of transport” and 98 thousand less for domestic ones.
Since TFG exists, i.e. since November 2016, there has not been such a dramatic drop in sales. Until now, the number of trips sold has grown. Even in the fourth quarter of 2019, i.e. the period when travel agencies were already selling trips for summer 2020 (first minute), Charter trips increased by 3 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2018. A quarter earlier increase was 6 percent. In turn, in the category of “other means of transport” the increase from the fourth quarter is 12 percent, and from the third 16 percent.
What is worse, the slowdown in sales that started in February continued in March. Based on information from tour operators and travel agents, it can be said that in March the interest in trips fell to zero. But specific TFG data for March and for the entire first quarter of this year will be known only after April 21. This is when the deadline for tour operators to submit declarations in which they provide how many contracts they concluded and how many they terminated in March.
– At the same time we receive applications from tour operators for refund of contributions for events that will not take place – explains TFG director Renata Mentlewicz. – It is possible on the basis of the law “on special solutions related to the prevention, prevention and eradication of C-19, other infectious diseases and crises arising from them” of 2 March this year. Events are either canceled by the organizers due to the epidemic, or the customers themselves are withdrawing from them. For now, small offices are primarily interested in refunding premiums. However, if medium and large tour operators start applying for a refund, we will have to withdraw more money per month than the fund receives. And then the Tourist Guarantee Fund will start to shrink. Today it has PLN 160 million.
Is PLN 160 million plus PLN 160 million borrowed a lot or little? – Now we can only roughly estimate, but we do not know if PLN 320 million is enough to cover claims in the event of an avalanche of bankruptcy of travel agencies – explains UFG Vice President Marek Niechciuk. – If, as the Minister of Development Jadwiga Emilewicz said at the beginning of March, Poles spent 1.5 billion zlotys on prepayments in travel agencies, and the guarantees of travel agencies amount to just over 1.1 billion zlotys, then the maximum would be about 400 million zlotys. So help from BGK should be just right.
– The crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has revealed how little we know about the outbound tourism market. Certainly precise information would make it easier for the government administration to follow market trends, and in emergency situations, would help to estimate what the scale of assistance for the tourism industry should be – says Niechciuk.
– If we were to extend the powers of the Tourist Guarantee Fund to collect information from travel agencies, we would not only know – as today – how many contracts were concluded with clients, but also when would trips take place, to which countries and at what price. We do not have such information right now, because the Act on tourist events does not provide for their collection – continues, Niecharzenia.
– Collecting such information should not be difficult, because could be done electronically, by pulling them straight from tour operators' systems. Of course, with us they would be processed and collected in such a way as not to reveal the secrets of individual companies. It's about general statistics showing how the market works. More information about the entire market would primarily help tour operators themselves in running their business.
UFG has been operating for almost 30 years, we are prepared with IT to manage large databases, we have a lot of experience in this. Every day we deal with information on the automotive and insurance market. We receive data from insurance companies. We are a solid brand in this respect, information security comes first with us. Among other things, thanks to the information flow organized in such a way from October 2018, drivers in Poland do not need to have proof of civil liability insurance or registration certificate – everything can be checked in the system.
Equipping TFG with the opportunity to deal with data on the outbound tourism market is obviously not a topic to be solved in the hottest time of crisis, when tourism companies are putting out fires and thinking about their future. But I think that we should take care of him as soon as we get out of this situation – ends Marek Niecharzenia.