Manila bloodbath to knock tourism, says travel group

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 24 2010 04:39 PM | Updated as of Aug 25 2010 09:08 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Local tavel agencies said they expect tourist arrivals to drop by at least 10% this year following the bloody ending of the 12-hour hostage-taking that ended in the death of 8 Chinese nationals.

Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) President Ma. Paz Alberto said members of the group have confirmed cancellations made by tourists, with many of them citing the hostage-taking incident.

On Monday, a former policeman seized a tourist bus carrying Hong Kong residents in Manila. Police later stormed the vehicle, resulting in the death of 8 tourists, including the gunman.

The incident drew criticism, embarrassing the Philippine government and outraged Hong Kong nationals, who accused the local police of mishandling the crisis.

"Because of the incident, our country has suffered another setback in its drive to fully establish a tourism industry that can rival its neighbors," the PTAA said in a statement on Tuesday.

Alberto said that the Philippine government should mount a major campaign to lure back tourists into the country.

The PTAA said that it expected the backlash to last more than three months, which will be a big dent to the Department of Tourism's efforts to generate more revenue from the tourism industry.

The Hong Kong government raised a "black" travel alert for the Philippines, urging against all travel to one of Southeast Asia's most popular tourist spots.

More than 100 million Chinese nationals travel abroad yearly, both from Hong Kong and from mainland China.

In 2009, Hong Kong tourists were the sixth largest group of tourists that visited the country, and ranked fourth in the first quarter this year.

"Many of these tourists now believe that the Philippines is not a safe destination, especially after the incident was broadcast," Alberto said in Filipino.

Alberto urged the government to extend all assistance possible to those that have been through the horrific experience.

"No amount of advertising and promotions can erase the tragedy that happened yesterday. But by showing heart to the families of those who have died yesterday will hopefully create a lasting impact that it was just an isolated incident that can happen anywhere.

The PTAA said that for its part, it will start a series of trainings and seminars for its members that will equip those in the frontline with proper safety procedures in the hope of avoiding at the onset such tragedies from happening again.