The struggle of the Philippine tourism industry continues as a result of the ongoing global health crisis as a 73 percent drop was reflected in foreign tourist arrivals for the first seven months of 2020 compared to the same period last year, according to an official of the Department of Tourism (DoT).
In an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said the Tourism department only recorded about 1.3 million foreign visitors from January to July this year, down 73 percent from the 4,857,107 international foreign tourist arrivals in the same period in 2019.
In terms of revenue, he said the first seven months of the year were able to generate about P81 billion, which represents a drop of about 72 percent compared to the same period last year.
“Clearly the tourism industry has been severely affected by the pandemic and of course, this is a result of the travel restrictions that were imposed in the middle of March,” he said, citing that the drop in figures was expected.
On March 16, the Philippine government imposed the Luzon-wide lockdown as a response to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. But the community quarantine measures remain in place amid continued spike in coronavirus cases in the country.
With this, the current efforts of the DoT is now focusing on the revival of domestic tourism, with some local tourism sites now reopened exclusively for residents and those living in nearby provinces.
Bengzon said the department is optimistic that domestic tourism will help accelerate the recovery of the industry, noting that 10.8 percent of the 12.7 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) share of tourism in 2019 was attributed to domestic tourism.
In terms of absolute amount, he said this translates to around P3.4 trillion spent by Filipinos while they moved around the country last year.
“We have a very huge domestic tourism base. Last year, there were about 109 million domestic trips. And we are very confident that as we open up local destinations, it will be the local tourists who will be creating or stimulating the demand,” he said, citing that the figures recorded can provide impetus movement around the country once quarantine measures have been further eased.
He also noted that the results of the recent “Philippine Travel Survey Report: Insights of Filipino Travelers’ Sentiments on the New Normal,” conducted by the DoT, the Asian Institute of Management Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism, and Guide to the Philippines, showed that 77 percent of respondents expressed willingness to travel domestically even in the absence of a proven vaccine, a potential answer to the revival of domestic market.
But foreign leisure travelers are not yet allowed to come to the Philippines as borders remain closed. But the DoT had earlier said that they are eyeing travel corridors or bridges which will allow certain traveling populations, provided that they came from the countries where coronavirus cases have already been contained.