Generally optimistic, despite continuing challenges

Published January 15, 2022, 11:00 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Tourism chief sees ‘revenge travel’ manifesting across all markets of the Philippine tourism industry

A GLIMPSE OF PARADISE El Nido, Palawan (File photo)

The annual tourism revenue in 2020 was no doubt higher than the receipts generated the following year since tourists were still able to enter the country from January to mid-March before the lockdown was first imposed in 2020.

But if you compare the figures from April to September of both years covering the pandemic period, the tourism industry this 2021 saw a renewed hope toward a steady recovery path.

Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed that tourism receipts from April to September 2021 reached ₱3.1 billion, up by 91.6 percent from ₱1.6 billion generated in the same period in 2020.

“The current tourism scenario is looking generally optimistic,” said Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat. Since the gradual resumption of tourism operations last September, more establishments had reopened and the country saw an uptick in the number of domestic travelers in major tourist destinations.

In Boracay alone, tourism arrivals ballooned by 1,151.61 percent to 173,104 from the 13,830 tourists recorded on the island during the same period in 2021.

The DOT also continued to promote the Philippines as a country that would bank not only on the safety of travelers but also its host communities as it actively and aggressively vaccinated tourism workers nationwide.

As of Dec. 24, 2021, at least 88.38 percent or 282,780 tourism workers had been inoculated against COVID-19, while the remaining 11.62 percent were waiting for their schedule.

‘In the wake of disconnect and economic hardship brought about by the pandemic, Filipinos are likely to travel ‘more consciously.’

For 2022, Berna sees “revenge travel” manifesting across all markets of the Philippine tourism industry. In the wake of disconnect and economic hardship brought about by the pandemic, Filipinos are likely to travel “more consciously.”

A recent research commissioned by AirBnB showed that over 80 percent of Filipinos it polled seek to travel in a way that positively impacts locals while about 76 percent want to be more conscious when it comes to familiarizing themselves with the host community and how they can make a contribution.

The DOT has vowed to pivot toward sustainable tourism development models, with focus on providing guests with high-quality experiences rather than mass tourism and short-term gains.

With no certain date yet as to when the country will open its borders to foreign leisure travelers, the DOT believes domestic tourists will continue to be the main tourism growth driver in 2022.

The agency will also tap into the growing workation market, seeing that remote work is likely to stay throughout and even after the pandemic.

“The trend was something that came along as a need by employees who worked from home during the pandemic, yet also needed the time to take a break and recover from cabin fever. We are confident that with the increasing prominence of remote work, this trend will linger on even after the pandemic,” Berna said.

Should the Philippines reopen, according to the tourism secretary, foreign tourists can rest assured that health and safety protocols are in place.

“The DOT yields to the wisdom of our health experts and we fully understand the need to protect the health and wellbeing of the rest of the country, especially now that we have started to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

The Philippines was supposed to have ended its almost 21-month closure to foreign tourists on Dec. 1, 2021, but the plan was suspended amid the growing threat of the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant.

This year, the tourism chief is also hoping to successfully host the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit, a MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) event seen to boost the Philippine travel sector’s recovery.

“The WTTC Global Summit is widely considered as the most influential event for travel and tourism professionals and stakeholders, and we are making sure that the health and safety of our guests, as well as our staff, are on top of our priority list,” she said.

Meanwhile, the DOT is working on the “rehabilitation and recovery” of several tourist destinations, including Bohol, Camiguin, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Palawan, Siargao, and Southern Leyte, affected by last year’s Typhoon Odette.

Berna said the focus was on addressing immediate concerns of affected tourism workers, such as cash-for-work or alternative livelihood programs and the reconstruction of affected facilities of various enterprises.

The agency, through the Tourism Promotions Board, is also facilitating the delivery of relief goods and basic necessities to Cebu, Siargao, Tacloban, Palawan, and Negros Oriental.

Cash donations from tourism stakeholders were also given to affected establishments and DOT Regional Offices. In addition, the DOT is in close coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for financial assistance.

In Siargao, Berna said the DOT together with the Makati Med Foundation would continue with the vaccination program for tourism workers and, at the same time see, to the immediate medical needs of the community.

“We stand behind with our kababayans and our tourism stakeholders from Visayas and Mindanao in these difficult times,” said Berna. (PNA)