By JOHN TRIA
With a global growth slowdown imminent due to the lower volume of international tourists and reduced travel due to the effects of the spread of the coronavirus, we will expect local tourism revenues to take a hit. As this infections spreads, the impact will even be greater on our economic growth, threatening the gains we have achieved thus far.
In our economy, tourism represents almost 13% of our economic growth, up from merely 8.6% in 2016, almost at par, if not better than business process outsourcing, employing 5.4 million Filipinos especially in the rural areas.
A closer look at statistics, however, shows that local tourists actually contribute a lot to the economy when compared to their foreign counterparts. This is especially felt in parts of the country where foreigners do not normally visit like many areas in Mindanao.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in 2018 foreign tourists spent about P441 billion while domestic tourists spent more than P3 trillion.
Thus, local tourists contributed significantly to the livelihoods those employed in tourism, creating a great impact especially in many provinces. The image of such local tourists is seen in the groups of friends touring small towns and staying in small hotels in South Cotabato.
These reflect the thousands of small and medium-size resorts and hotels in our many tourist spots that employ the majority of our tourism workers and bring important revenue to small towns.
The numbers show that local tourism is thus a big piece of the tourism pie. I believe it can be expanded further to cushion the loss in foreign tourists, and bolster the income of local airlines since unlike some foreign carriers, it has domestic routes that can offset some losses from international trips. Some airlines have begun coming up with special domestic promotions and can divert some of their aircraft to serve these domestic routes to forego possible large scale lay-offs.
As President Duterte has begun promoting local tourism, so must we. Many destinations already have better infrastructure, delightful, newly built hotels and resorts and airports now capable of receiving night flights, and wider highways upon which these trips can be made, not to mention lower crime volumes that create a safe community. Promoting local tourism and travel is a national imperative if we are to deal with the effects of lower foreign tourist arrivals.
With these, perhaps it is time to promote local tourism to the thousands of Filipinos who frequent foreign destinations may consider some destinations off the beaten path, including those in Mindanao, such as Camiguin, Siargao, Davao Oriental, Lake Sebu, Dipolog and Pagadian, the Enchanted River in Surigao, Samal Island, and Zamboanga City. Each peso we spend in these places goes a long way to preserve, if not expand local livelihoods.
Dear reader, you have a big part to play in promoting your destinations. Use social media and take pictures of your local attractions, events, and cuisine. Your locale will have a lot to offer to the visitor.
Local governments and business groups such as chambers of commerce will need to work together as teams to promote their destinations in a way we perhaps have never seen. Deep teamwork is necessary.
For all we know, the coronavirus challenge may bring out the best in what our community can offer, and what we can do to work together to keep our economic growth strong despite these disruptions!
More next week.
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