PH loses P200B as tourism dips
ILOILO CITY—The country’s tourism industry has lost around P200 billion heading into the second quarter as the hospitality sector experienced its worst slump in recent years amid worldwide travel restrictions due to the new coronavirus disease pandemic, an industry official said.
Jose Clemente III, president of Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), said tourism-related businesses were struggling to stay afloat and cope with the crisis as losses reached an estimated P150 billion in the first quarter of the year and up to P200 billion by this time. Losses are projected to hit P500 billion by the third quarter, he added.
“Our main concerns are continuity and liquidity to keep our heads above water,” Clemente told the Inquirer in a phone interview this week.
Even if global travel restrictions are relaxed or lifted, travel agency owners, tour operators, hotels, resorts, restaurants, transport services and other concerned outfits do not expect tourism-related activities to recover soon.
“We want to be proactive but without a vaccine, tourism will be one of the last industries to reopen and resume activities,” said Clemente, also president of the Metro Manila-based travel agency, Rajah Tours Philippines Inc.
He said that in the short-term, tourism activities could resume in destinations that would require only short travel, such as within provinces or islands.
Travel could also be affected by increased costs due to possible limits on the number of passengers and the additional requirements of providing personal protective equipment.
Hotels and resorts may also need to include isolation rooms for infected guests, while restaurants may reduce the number of tables and guests to maintain physical distancing, Clemente said.
The tourism slump has affected around 5.2 million workers directly employed by industry players and about the same number of those indirectly benefiting from tourism activities, he said.
Concerned parties, he said, had asked the government to provide P71 billion in loans and subsidies to help them stay afloat and retain their employees.
Western Visayas, which has major tourist destinations such as Boracay Island in Aklan province, is suffering heavily from the slump.
In a webinar organized by TCP on May 14, Helen Catalbas, Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director, said that since the lockdown was implemented, Western Visayas lost an estimated 1.14 million potential tourists and P40 billion in tourism revenue.
About 5.8 million tourists visited Western Visayas in 2019, contributing P131 billion to the regional economy.
Catalbas said the DOT had evacuated 2,516 foreign and 297 Filipino tourists in the region in flights organized or assisted by the agency.
At least 982 tourists, including 621 foreigners, had remained in the region as of May 13.
Virtual tours, webinars
The DOT is assisting front-liners, workers and establishments to prepare for recovery through various programs and projects.
It is launching in June virtual tours of Western Visayas covering the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental.
Filmmaking and culinary webinars will also be organized.
Catalbas said the DOT was banking on domestic tourism, especially targeting residents in the region, to compensate for the expected slack of foreign tourists when travel resumed.
Cleofe Albiso, chair of Iloilo Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions Alliance, said in the webinar that the group did not expect its activities and events to push through within the year and even up to mid-2021.
While the situation can be depressing and disheartening for many companies, Albiso, who is also group general manager of Megaworld Hotels, cited the need to embrace the challenges and for companies to support each other.
They must diversify and maintain social media presence while preparing for the easing of quarantine restrictions, she stressed.
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