Tourism recovery from COVID-19 slump eyed

The Department of Tourism (DOT) is looking to revise its targets under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2016-2022 amid the unprecedented crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We will let you know if and when we will revise the targets,” DOT Spokesman and Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. confirmed in a text message. 

DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr, (DOT / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

The NTDP 2016-2022 serves as the blueprint for tourism development programs in the country.  The plan envisions building and upscaling the implementation of tourism programs through a focused and prioritized approach designed to deliver a more competitive, sustainable and inclusive tourism sector.

This year, the tourism department was aiming for 9.2 million foreign visitor arrivals, then 10.4 million in 2021, and 12 million in 2022. The figures in inbound revenue were also projected at P661 billion this year, P776 billion in 2021, and P922 billion in 2022. 

However, Bengzon had earlier said that foreign visitor arrivals from January to July this year have slumped by around 73 percent, from 4.8 million in the same period last year to 1.3 million, with zero recorded arrivals from April to July. 

Inbound receipts in the first seven months of the year were only about P81 billion, representing a drop of about 72 percent compared to the same period last year. 

Thousands of direct and indirect tourism employees have also been laid off as a result of the pandemic, in contrast to the NTDP projection of generating about 6 million jobs this year, 6.3 million in 2021, and 6.5 million in 2022. 

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she is optimistic that the industry will soon recover from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, focusing first on the revival of the country’s domestic tourism industry which is seen to be the main driver for recovery.