Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat had a rather surprising report to the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation last Thursday. Some 77 percent of Filipinos said they want to travel even during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey conducted by the department.
Despite the pandemic which has taken its toll on the lives of so many victims, despite the closure of so many businesses and offices, despite the lockdown restrictions on the movements of most people, the survey reflects an optimism that remains strong among our people.
The survey shows that in this most difficult time in the life of the nation, Filipinos can appreciate the positive side of things. They may not be able to go anywhere under the ongoing lockdowns, but they were asked: If they can, would they travel to other parts of the country at this time? And a huge majority said they would.
Many probably don’t have the means to do so, not the extra funds needed for a trip to some tourist spot, but would they do so if they can? The eternal optimism in Filipinos came out in the Department of Tourism survey – 77 percent of 77 percent – nearly eight in every ten people – said yes, they would.
This little bit of information came out as Secretary Puyat defend her department’s P3.5-billion budget for 2021 in the National Appropriation bill now being prepared for next year. We can expect a major part of the national budget to go to programs for economic recovery. So many enterprises have had to close down in the last six months and they need government help to recover and resume their contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
Many of the world’s nations have closed their borders to foreigners out of fear of COVID-19. International tourism has thus suffered heavily and will continue to suffer as the virus has come to be known as likely to infect travelers either aboard planes or in airports. Our own Cardinal Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle was healthy when he left Rome, but tested positive for COVID-19 after he arrived at our airport.
But it seems the danger attached to foreign travel has not spread to local travel, if the Department of Tourism survey is any indication. Air travel within our country has not suffered as much as international travel. Thus the local tourism industry is hopeful that it will be among the leading sectors in the coming national economic recovery.
Boracay island and Baguio City have already partially opened. These and other local tourist destinations will have a big role to play in the coming national recovery program.