By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to embark on an aggressive campaign promoting domestic travel to cushion the impact of the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) on local tourism.
At the same time, Gatchalian urged Filipinos to support local tourism saying avoiding out of the country travels can also contain the spread of the virus, which experts say is increasingly becoming a pandemic.
“It is during this time when we must show our ‘Bayanihan’ spirit to help our kababayans, whose livelihoods are affected by the travel ban,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
“Instead of planning a trip abroad this year, let’s explore the Philippines more for a change,” the senator added.
Gatchalian said promoting domestic destinations will help the micro and small entrepreneurs (MSMEs) and even the menial workers in the regions to cope with possible economic vulnerabilities.
“Maraming apektado sa travel ban, nandiyan ang mga bangkero, tour guides, mga ordinaryong vendor, lahat yan apektado kapag walang turista (There are many people affected by the travel ban—the boatmen, tour guides, ordinary vendors—all of them are affected when there are no tourists),” Gatchalian explained.
“Kaya imbes na magbakasyon tayo sa ibang bansa, dito na lang at matutulungan pa natin sila (That is why instead of vacationing in other countries, let’s do it here and we will be able to help them to),” he said.
During Tuesday’s Senate committee on health’s hearing on the country’s response to the nCoV, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said it is too early to ascertain the economic effects of the virus scare, and that the virus isn’t expected to make the Philippine economy sick.
“At this moment, it is reasonable to expect that while these developments might slightly restrain our economic expansion, these threats are not enough to force a dramatic reduction in our growth estimates,” Dominguez had said.
The DOF chief said the government is still standing on its projection of a GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate of between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent for 2020.
Nevertheless, Dominguez acknowledged that the nCoV scare will undoubtedly have an impact on the tourism sector, but it won’t be unique to the Philippines.
“The travel and tourism industry around the globe is taking a hit as a result of the various levels of travel bans imposed by national governments and of voluntary decisions of airlines to cut flights to and from China,” the secretary said.