By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
Domestic travel is not expected to be happening soon as Filipinos expect to travel in the next six months yet preferably to destinations closer to home as they prioritize health and cost considerations, according to a survey and industry players’ forecast.
The Philippine Travel Survey: A Study on Filipino Travelers’ Sentiments on the New Normal by Asian Institute of Management in collaboration with the Department of Tourism was conducted with over 12,732 respondents to generate data on Filipino travelers’ behavior after the lockdown. The survey has revealed six insights: Domestic leisure travel will lead Philippine tourism recovery; major of travelers expect a reduction in income and travel budget; health and safety is the primary concern of travelers; travelers prefer reduced-contact activities once leisure travel restrictions are lifted; travelers prefer online and digital channels for convenience and contact-reduction; and travelers plan to travel close to home.
On the first key insight, the survey revealed that fewer or 48 percent of Filipinos expect to travel domestically within 6 months from lifting of travel restrictions although the survey also showed that a high of 77 of people are willing to travel domestically even in the absence of a vaccine.
The Filipinos unwillingness to travel is further bolstered with only 22.79 percent of respondents willing to travel as soon as a vaccine is available while 12.63 wants to travel after a year and 16.6 percent within a year.
For foreign trips, only 26 percent of Filipinos also expect to travel internationally within the next six months with 38 percent planning to travel regionally to East Asia such as China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Thirty percent also plan to travel within the ASEAN region once restrictions are lifted with majority citing leisure as primary reason for travel.
The second insight points to significant reduction in domestic travel where a large majority of 74 percent foresee a reduction in income and 44 percent said they are going to decrease travel budget. The survey also noted that domestic travelers’ spend is significantly higher at 80 percent of tourism receipts than inbound travel spend.
Despite attractive promotions, 42 percent of Filipinos are less likely to buy travel deals at this time on concerns of safety, expected slower income and travel restrictions.
Health and safety will remain the primary concern of travelers as 37 percent of travelers indicated that the situation will worsen in a month’s time while 34 percent thought the situation will neither improve or worsen and only 29 percent felt the situation will improve.
A large majority of 84 percent said that medical milestones will trigger comfort in returning to the old lifestyle. In the meantime, travelers are willing to adhere to health and safety protocols.
With the health crisis, travelers have also shifted to more private small guided tours to avoid contact activities and exposure to crowds. Going to the beach, road trip and staying in a hotel are the top tourist activities.
For convenience and social distancing, 73 percent of travelers prefer direct online channels.
The survey showed that travelers across the different regions in the country have shown preference for traveling to destinations closer to their place of residence. Boracay still ranks the top choice followed by Siargao, Baguio, Metro Manila and Cebu.
Mariglo Laririt of Ten Knots Group director of sustainability, operator of one of the country’s leading luxury tourist facilities, said the heightened health and safety protocols will come at a cost in their products than the pre-COVID era.
But Laririt noted that aside from the new protocols, tourism facilities will have to deal with few capacities to ensure viability of operations as they are allowed up to 50 percent capacity only for now.
In addition, she said, travelers are expected to carefully choose which destinations to pursue as they have to limit trips. “It is really destinations of value for money,” but with all cost considerations she said, “We cannot promise lower prices at the moment.”
Josen Perez de Tagle, head of corporate affairs of the country’s flag carrier Philippine Airlines, admitted that all the health measures will cost a lot of money. But he said that PAL has to balance this out with the issue of affordabililty as they also have to fulfill its mission to help kickstart the economy.
While it is a challenge going forward, Perez de Tagle said “We have not increased fares, no plan to, but there could be little less of the usual promotions.”