By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY—The tourism industry in Western Visayas lost at least P31.3 billion in revenues due to the lockdown measures and travel restrictions implemented against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The estimated loss of tourism revenue was based on the projection by the Department of Tourism (DOT) that the region, comprised of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental provinces and the highly urbanized cities of Iloilo and Bacolod, could have surpassed 1.45 million tourist arrivals for the period of March 17 to May 29.
“That is based on our tourist arrivals for the same period of last year. We could have had 1.5 million tourists if not for the lockdown,” said DOT-6 Regional Director Helen Catalbas during an online forum organized by Tourismo TV.
“But these figures are gone now and we have to start anew,” Catalbas told the online forum moderated by Tourismo TV founder Michael Herrera and Manila Bulletin Head for External Affairs Barbie Atienza, who is also president of United Print Media Group.
Western Visayas was particularly feeling COVID-19’s impact on the tourism sector as Boracay Island, the country’s most popular beach destination is located in Malay town, Aklan province.
Aside from Boracay, there are also rising beach destinations in northern Iloilo province and Negros Occidental that were affected by travel restrictions of COVID-19.
With the new normal, DOT-6 is leading the preparation for changes in the region’s tourism industry.
“We will soon have seminars on hygiene and disinfection and we will give guidelines on accommodation,” Catalbas added.
Meanwhile, DOT-6 helped facilitate the repatriation of 3,231 tourists who were stranded all over Western Visayas since the start of the lockdown. This was composed of 2,838 foreign tourists and 393 domestic tourists.
DOT-6 is still working to repatriate the remaining 1,023 stranded tourists.