Help boost the Philippine economy by supporting domestic tourism

Published April 20, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

After the two-year ordeal brought about by the pandemic, Filipinos are once again traveling as seen in airports that are full of passengers, roads that are full of vehicles, and restaurants that are full of customers. Last week, hotels and resorts enjoyed high occupancy rates, something they haven’t experienced for a long time. 

Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) President Arthur Lopez said that feedback from their members was very “encouraging.”  “The high demand is a welcome development for the accommodation sector, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic in the last two years. The return to pre-pandemic levels will take a while but at least we are seeing stronger demand across different traveler segments,” Lopez said.

As the summer season rolls in, Filipino families are now taking advantage of the ease of travel, which only requires visitors to present proof of vaccination. The rise in the number of domestic tourists also complements the rise in foreign tourist arrivals in the country, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT). The agency said that as of April 7, 2022, arrivals reached a high of 202,700. 

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat expressed “satisfaction with the latest figures, noting such to be a welcome development following the sustained reopening of borders and loosening of travel restrictions.” “The sustained influx of tourists in the Philippines is a good measure of the industry’s success in its preparations to welcome foreign tourists in the new normal. Our high vaccination rate among tourism workers and reportedly low cases around the country have helped restore the confidence of travelers to visit the Philippines during the summer season,” Puyat said.

The continued growth, she stressed, shall aid stakeholders as well as the economy in recovering from the effects caused by the pandemic. 

As the number of Filipinos traveling to countries with more relaxed restrictions such as Singapore, Thailand, or Malaysia increases, there is a clamor for more support for local tourism. It is not enough to only visit popular destinations such as Boracay, Baguio, Cebu, Palawan, or Davao as the country has more than enough attractions for any preference or taste. For history, there is Bulacan or Quezon; for watersports, try Aurora or La Union; for nature, explore Romblon or Marinduque; for extreme adventure, drop by Bukidnon or Agusan. The list is endless. 

This is probably the best time to rediscover these places as your family will not only have a good time, but also help the hospitality workers in that town or city — the guides, the handicraft makers, the resort workers, the waiters, the drivers, to the small businesses that are keeping the area alive and authentic.  

Amid the bright news hangs a cloud of uneasiness. The world is not yet “out of the woods” and we are still officially in a pandemic.  This calls for vigilance in light of the Alert Level 1 classification in almost all provinces and the NCR.   The PHOA, for one, still encourages its members to strictly implement health and safety protocols. There is also a call from the government for Filipinos to take booster shots amid low compliance.  

We all have to remember this — what we do now will have an impact in the long run; so if there is less adherence to health protocols today, there may be more infections come the month of May.  And this, again, is the last thing that our recovering tourism industry needs.