Domestic tourists seen as lifesavers for industry after COVID-19 disruption

Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 12 2020 09:38 PM

People flock to the Travel Tour Expo at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay, City on February 7, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Department of Tourism on Tuesday said it will prioritize the promotion of local travel to revive a sector that’s been badly battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said they are now working with various private sector groups to make sure the local tourism industry can get back on its feet, saying she doubted foreigners will resume traveling to the country again soon due to the COVID-19 situation.

Puyat said, tourist arrivals and revenues plunged 40 percent in the first quarter of 2020, even though the enhanced community quarantine was only implemented in the second half of March. This was in contrast to the same period in 2019 when tourist arrivals shot up to over 2.2 million. 

That means, the local tourism sector already lost around 881,000 visitors during the first quarter of 2020, Puyat said.

Despite this setback, Puyat said the DOT will continue promoting the country abroad as a safe destination.

The DOT and various private sector groups are banking on safety standards to keep the industry afloat once lockdown measures against COVID-19 are lifted across the country.

"Moving forward, safety will be the paramount concern of most, if not all, visitors," she said during a GoNegosyo webinar.

Jose Clemente III, President of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines said they're now working with the DOT to come up with a set of health and safety standards for all players in the industry like hotels, restaurants, tour guides, and tourism communities.

He said, "destinations that can show or assure people that their country is safe will be the most desirable ones once people start to travel again."

Arthur Lopez, President of the Philippine Hotel Owners Association, said their group will issue health standards this week for hotels, especially in housekeeping, to make sure the sector will be ready once they're allowed to resume normal operations.