Published 06/08/2020 - 13:21

Almost six months after the start of this pandemic, which is moving from the west to the east on the globe, there are many things that have been learned and many more to discover, especially in LATAM, a region in which we have not yet arrived at the peak of the pandemic.

Those of us who are in the west of the globe somehow could see, with some anticipation, what was happening in the eastern countries of the globe.

Despite this, there is very little that we know about COVID-19, since the science of research cannot match its time with that of the spread of this pandemic, and there was little time left to take measures to be better prepared.

Since 2001 to date we have had tragic world events; the Twin Towers in 2001, yellow fever in 2008, and volcanic ash in 2011 among others, and all with a great impact on our industry. And now, the COVID-19 arises, which has been the most devastating event, from the economic, political and social point of view, since it is affecting the entire world population equally, in short: THE WORLD STOPPED.

Parked planes, closed airports, ships in the ports, people cannot and do not want to travel, they do not leave their homes and the words that became fashionable: first quarantine and then social distancing.
Our region, which is characterized by its resilience given the cyclical crises that we are continually facing, this time, however, faces the same problem as that of the entire world, we are no longer different.

This leads us to affirm that TODAY is the TIME of the ASSOCIATIONS, which gather together partners from all over the world and the same as operators and suppliers of this industry, their income has decreased.

Associations must face not only the challenge of not being able to carry out their annual events, but also that their members want to renounce their membership, which has a direct impact on financial and human resources, which are vital at this time when there is much work to do, establish new contracts with airports, seek new agreements with national and / or continental authorities, negotiate alliances, etc.

Some weeks ago, many of us participated in the webinar “Planning to Restart” organized by the DFWC, where the member associations presented what they have been doing in recent months. In this way we had the opportunity to know what they have been doing for the industry, in a constant and reserved way, basically concentrating on two situations: the current one of the emergency closure, and the future, as the openings begin, which may be more complex from the operational, logistical and financial point of view than the closure situation.

ASUTIL has been working in an integrated way to achieve synergy between all the actors. The Board of Directors together with CEFSU, ACI-LAC, ICAO, DFWC member associations, and the national associations in each country have been in contact coordinating, proposing ideas, suggesting action plans and measures to take. This was not only reduced to the actors of the industry, but also to the associations that nucleate the commercial activities within the airports such as duty-paid, advertising, restaurants, car rental agencies, etc.

Here are some of the proposals:

1) Exemption from guaranteed concession payments for airports: when appropriate and in case of resumption of the activity, that the percentage be associated with the recovery levels of the activity, especially taking into account that a delay of 3 years is expected for the recovery of passenger movement to the 2019 level

2) Delay infrastructure investment requirements

3) Temporary relief of compliance with service quality obligations

4) Financial measures for short-term reductions in Duty-Free operating costs to address liquidity risk and ensure operational and commercial continuity

5) Postpone payment of bank amortizations and access to credit lines with subsidized interests

6) Suspension or postponement of social security contributions, as well as corporate and other taxes (including VAT, special taxes) for at least 6 months

7) Relaxation of the payment of the taxes of the year 2020 to the local government

8) Reopening protocol in coordination with ICAO, to be simultaneous and without specific restrictions at airports

9) In the case of Border Duty-Free stores, give the possibility for online sale to foreigners and send purchases via courier to final destination while the borders are closed

10) For those countries that citizens have franchises to import certain amounts without paying taxes under any type of modality, allow to use that franchise for Duty-Free purchases in their countries during the duration of the border closure

11) In the twin cities, the presentation of an operation protocol to avoid the closure of the Duty-Free premises and to allow its operation

12) Facilitate the donation of products (Customs) with expiration date, also allowing the deduction of taxes to pay

Today is the time when supporting the associations is essential, not only financially but also, contributing with suggestions, ideas and others that allow us to search for solutions in each LATAM country. We already know that there are different realities and therefore they will respond to different actions, but today, more than ever, we will succeed ALL TOGETHER.

José Luis Donagaray