Tourism sector waits for dust to settle over hostage fiasco

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 27 2010 04:46 PM | Updated as of Aug 28 2010 12:56 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Stakeholders in the tourism industry have agreed to "sit back" and let emotions over Monday's bloody hostage drama pass amid millions of pesos in projected losses due to China's black travel advisory for the Philippines.

"All agreed to keep quiet for the meantime. Anything we do now on a very aggressive basis may be misinterpreted as lack of sincerity. It's better at this point to sit back, let emotions settle down a bit," Cesar Cruz of the Philippine Tour Operators' Association told ANC's Dateline Philippines in an interview.

Cruz said tour operators as well as hotel and resort owners are already cooking positive marketing strategies to lure back the Hong Kong and Chinese markets.

"The moment they are ready, then [these] could be executed," he said.

Cruz said the Philippine tourism industry may continue to feel the impact of the black travel alert issued by China for the next 2 months.

He said they are optimistic that the situation will normalize by November. He said the silent approach, in terms of marketing, to the crisis will save onward bookings for November this year until March 2011.

"The reaction coming from Hong Kong is expected. The facts are there, the cancellations are coming in. The objective right now is to save the onward bookings from November to March," he said.

Projected losses placed at millions

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) said Thursday that more than 500 flight bookings from Hong Kong and China have been cancelled since China issued the black travel alert.

The travel warning was issued on Tuesday, a day after 8 Hong Kong tourists died in a 12-hour hostage drama in Manila's Rizal Park.

PAL said the cancellations translate to close to P8 million.

Cebu Pacific also said that they already have 50 cancellations from Hong Kong and China.

A hotel in Manila also reported about 600 cancellations for September alone.

Cruz said the local tourism industry would feel more of the travel warnings' impact because "this is the peak season for Hong Kong holidays."

He said that during the peak season, 20 to 30 groups of tourists travel to Manila on a daily basis. He said each group consists of at least 20 people.

Cruz said that each person shells out at least $200 for a full tour package. Tour operators stand to lose at least $4,000 if one tour group cancels its trip to the Philippines.

"For this month of September, we can imagine the impact in terms of financial setback for the tourism industry," he said.

Hong Kong sale months

Cruz, meanwhile, said that they are also expecting losses from outbound flights to Hong Kong. He said Filipinos usually rush to Hong Kong from September to October because of the "sale season."

"This is also the season for Filipinos to go to Hong Kong. [It's] sale season in Hong Kong," he said.

He said Filipinos are feeling anxious to travel to Hong Kong as anger mounts over the bloody hostage drama.

However, he said the tourism industry expects Filipino travellers to start booking flights for Hong Kong in 2 to 3 weeks.