Tour agencies hit by 5-day UR closure

Johnny Lee, booking officer for Trip Planner Travel and Tours, shows the tour cancellation documents to Palawan News.

Travel and tour agencies in the city are reeling from losses due to the five-day cancellation of tours to Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) caused by inclement weather.

Since the onset of tour cancellation last Saturday, Johnny Lee, booking officer for Trip Planner Travel and Tours, said they had to refund payments of some 97 visitors amounting to P194,000.

“If the cancellation is declared by the government due to unfavorable sea condition, we refund all of their payment. We tell the guests about the situation, that we can’t do about it because it’s beyond our control,” Lee told Palawan News on Wednesday, February 7.

Advil Travel and Tours booking officer Lyn Sabuya shares other available tour packages to accommodation owner Isabelita Pelonia who received two balikbayan guests supposedly set to avail the underground river tour on Wednesday.

The PPUR Management was forced to close the Underground River for five days this week as strong winds associated with the surge of northeast monsoon or Amihan have caused high waves, making sea travel risky to fishing boats and other small seacrafts.

“While some were able to understand the situation, others got mad at us, considering they planned the trip way ahead, only to arrive and find out about the tour cancellation,” Lee said.

PPUR manager Elizabeth Maclang said ensuring the tourists’ safety is their top priority. “It’s okay with us getting negative feedback than receiving news about sea mishaps,” she told Palawan News by phone.

Maclang said they made sure they informed tour operators of the cancellation early mornings or a day early as soon as they received the weather advisories.

To make the most of their visit, Lee said they diverted instead the tourists to other tour packages, such as the Honda Bay and City Tour, respectively priced at P1,300 and P600 per individual. Some, the booking officer added, availed the tours at the community-based sustainable tourism sites within the PPUR area.

“We asked them either to get a full refund or diverted them to other tours. Around 40 of them chose the latter option and since it costs less we still refunded them the remainder,” he added.

Advil Travel and Tours booking officer Lyn Sabuya said they had 40 guests booked for the Underground River tour. Upon learning about the cancellation, she said half of them canceled their bookings.

“Of the remaining 20, some of them still went ahead with the PPUR tour via Jungle Trail,” she told Palawan News.

Accommodation owner Isabelita Pelonia said she had to rearrange the tours for her two balikbayan guests who arrived in the city the previous day.

“They regretted not having the chance to visit the PPUR. But I diverted their tour instead to Honda Bay since they were to leave on Thursday,” Pelonia told Palawan News.

Lee and Sabuya’s companies are just two of the more or less 300 members of the Association of Accredited Tour Operators of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines, Inc. (AATOPPP) that are bearing the brunt of tour cancellation.

“We anticipated this already every Amihan season. But compared to last year, the tour cancellation did not go beyond three days, unlike this year it lasted up to five days,” Lee said.

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