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Ship passenger traffic in Q3 signals slow pace of recovery

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By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

PASSENGER TRAFFIC at seaports grew by more than 1.5 million in the third quarter, but the total remains significantly below pre-pandemic levels, indicating a slow recovery as ferry companies endure losses.

From 2.97 million in the third quarter of 2020, passenger traffic rose 52.2% year on year to 4.52 million, which was still well below the pre-pandemic level of 17.32 million, according to data obtained from the Philippine Ports Authority.

The third round of community quarantines in the National Capital Region and other major cities in August “significantly affected the group’s passenger business,” Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp. said in its quarterly report released on Nov. 16.

Operations of passenger ships have been more affected relative to cargo due to travel restrictions implemented as a result of the public health crisis.

On Oct. 27, the Maritime Industry Authority said 43 passenger ships had completed their voyages that day but mostly “only carried cargo.”

The agency said 100% of the cargo shipping operations were completed “under normal conditions compared to passenger ships at 83%.”

Starting Nov. 4, the government increased the allowable carrying capacity of passenger ships to 70% from 50%.

More destinations have also relaxed their restrictions and are now accepting tourists.

“If this continues and/or (is) sustained, which we are hoping, this would mean more people will be traveling, tourism will rekindle, thus there will be more passengers taking the boat, then, more land travel, so demand for goods will also increase, which would also need transport,” Chelsea Logistics President and Chief Executive Officer Chryss Alfonsus V. Damuy said.

“As fuel demand will increase, there will also be more tanker movements,” he told BusinessWorld in a phone message recently.

2GO Group, Inc.’s 2GO Travel announced last week that 90% of the destinations on its network are now accepting leisure visitors.

The company said 11 destinations on its network as of Nov. 11 have eased travel restrictions.

“Either local government units are welcoming tourists, accepting vaccination cards in lieu of swab tests, or allowing tourists with RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests,” the company said in a recent statement to BusinessWorld.

“We’re seeing gradual pickups or uptrend in terms of passenger bookings.”

2GO Travel also said the Tourism department, through the Tourism Promotions Board, has a financial subsidy program for “qualified domestic tourists traveling to destinations requiring (coronavirus) tests.”

Applications for the free RT-PCR test program are received at www.tpb.gov.ph/rtpcrphtravel/.

2GO Group’s revenue from its travel business fell to P59.94 million in the third quarter of the year from P128.32 million a year earlier, bringing its nine-month revenue for this business segment to P281.79 million, down 66.2%.

Meanwhile, Chelsea Logistics’s revenue from its passenger business increased by 99% year on year to P49.90 million in the third quarter, bringing its nine-month revenue for this business to P179.91 million, down 60.2%.

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