MANILA — The country lost an estimated P400 billion in potential revenue from international tourists in 2020 as the country closed its borders due to COVID-19, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Thursday.
In an interview on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, Puyat said the agency is expecting a bigger loss in terms of domestic tourism, noting that it usually shares a bigger chunk in the country's tourism sector.
“Ang masakit noon, this is only for international tourists. 'Di pa nakasulat doon yung domestic tourism. 'Yun lang ang nawala sa atin because of the travel restrictions from all over the world,” she said of the P400 billion loss.
(What makes it more painful is that this figure is only for international tourists. We haven’t included domestic tourism yet. We incurred that loss because of the travel restrictions from all over the world.)
“Mas malaki pa… ‘yung domestic tourism. Ang hirap lang kunin yung sa domestic tourism, but mas malaki -- kasi mas malaki ang domestic tourism natin kaysa sa foreign travelers,” she added.
(Domestic tourism is much bigger. It is just harder to get the amount, but we are expecting the figure to be bigger because domestic tourism is bigger than foreign travelers.)
The tourism chief earlier this year noted that the Philippines recorded a decline of 83.97 percent in tourist arrivals in 2020, and that total receipts from inbound tourism was estimated at only P81.40 billion the whole year.
She had said that the country would boost local tourism in a bid to restart the travel industry, even as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.
Puyat said that 77 percent of Filipinos have expressed their willingness to travel across the country despite the COVID-19 pandemic and even in the absence of a vaccine, citing a poll by the agency.
Most Filipinos wanted to travel by land and explore municipalities or provinces, she said. These were proven by the increasing number of tourists in Baguio and Tagaytay cities, according to the official.
“Siyempre, galing sa NCR, gusto nila to go around the Philippines first… Aside from that, tsaka na lang by air. Ang comfort zone nila, by land muna,” she said, adding that the agency describes it as “revenge tourism” as Filipinos reel from almost a year-long lockdown.
The government has sought restarting the tourism sector after COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed, forcing the cancellation of non-essential movements such as leisure trips, and halting public transport, among others.
Currently, several areas in the Philippines have already reopened to domestic tourists, including Boracay, El Nido, Baguio, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Lapu-Lapu City, Palawan and Siargao.
In 2019, the country recorded more than 8.26 million visitor arrivals, up by 15.24 percent from the previous year, with receipts amounting to P482.15 billion (higher by 18.8 percent from 2018), according to the DOT.
A separate report though from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) stated that total inbound tourism expenditure in 2019 amounted to P 548.8 billion.
Domestic travelers, on the other hand, totaled more than 46.3 million that year, according to a separate DOT report.
The PSA's 2019 Philippine Tourism Satellite Accounts indicated that domestic tourism expenditure that year amounted to P3.1 trillion.