Unable to sustain business, travel agents ‘drop their keys’

A protesting travel agent drops the keys to his agency in a box in an act of protest against ‘lack of state support’, on March 31, 2021. (Photo: Sarah Rababah/JNews)
AMMAN — Travel agents on Wednesday dropped their agencies’ keys in a box, in a symbolic move to protest what they believe to be government’s failure to extend the necessary support for their sector to survive the pandemic.اضافة اعلان

Members of the Jordanian Society of Tourism and Travel Agents, observing the Defense Law prohibiting large gatherings, divided themselves into four batches of 20 to take turns in a sit-in at the entrance of their union in Amman.

The agents have been out of work for more than a year due to the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns since March last year, leaving 11,000 jobs on the line, while little less than half of the agencies have gone out of business completely.

In a letter he sent to the Ministry of Labor, Jamal Al-Damen, the association’s vice president, requested the formation of an ad hoc committee to restructure the companies and allow layoffs, especially since their employees are not actually working and online working is not an option in this sector.

In remarks to Jordan News, Damen said that “307 out of 800 travel agencies did not renew their licenses because of the pandemic. Financial aids and loans are desperately needed.”

Last year, the Central Bank of Jordan took measures to secure JD500 million as credit facilities in a bid to breathe life in the economy following the outbreak of the pandemic. The travel agents tried to grab a slice of the funds, but their loan applications were turned down by banks.

“We had a meeting with the Central Bank to request a loan; they referred us to commercial banks that refused our requests, because it is too risky to loan an ailing sector,” the sector leader said.

CEO of Holiday Travel Jordan Yaser Abdo said a move by the government to slash the licensing fee by JD500 was not enough. He urged the government to open the borders and allow vaccinated persons to freely enter the Kingdom, and exempt them from paying for additional COVID-19 tests.

“Egypt is considered a dangerous COVID-19 spot, yet Sharm Al-Sheikh’s hotels are 100 percent booked and it’s not even summer yet. Europe and the Gulf countries allowed vaccinated travelers to enter their countries, and saved them $120 worth of PCR tests.”

Abdallah Abu Ghassan, owner of Murjan Tourism, stated that: “I’ve been paying taxes for 40 years and it’s now the government’s turn to pay me back.”