How has COVID-19 changed the travel industry? Tourism chief shares thoughts

Karen Flores Layno, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 22 2020 05:53 PM

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat 

MANILA -- Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat believes that the novel coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the travel industry, from choosing a place to visit to booking accommodations and flights.

In a video conference by Asian Culinary Exchange and Metro.Style on Wednesday, Romulo-Puyat noted that, for one, travel decisions are now primarily based on concerns about safety and hygiene because of the COVID-19 crisis.

"Before, when you look for a place to travel, you always look at the food, etc.," she told her fellow panelists and around 100 attendees of the online discussion. "Now, when they look at a hotel or a place, they have to make sure that they're safe."

When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on domestic tourism, Romulo-Puyat said they are seeing the trend of prioritizing land travel over sea and air to practice physical distancing measures. 

She said the challenge after the lockdown is to coordinate with local government units so they can limit the number of people in tourist spots and avoid another outbreak.

"The people we've been talking to, they want to go by land... If we don't take care and see too many people going to one place and there's overtourism, there might be an outbreak again and we go back to day 1. So right now we're already talking to all LGUs... If the standards before were strict, they have to be stricter now," she said.

And while not a lot of people are excited to fly because of COVID-19, Romulo-Puyat said airlines also have to make adjustments when it comes to seating arrangements. 

"The middle seat has to be empty because you have to be one meter apart. In other countries it has to be six feet apart," she said, adding that meetings, conventions, and other similar events have taken a hit because of the health crisis. 

GOING DIGITAL

Romulo-Puyat also mentioned the fast transition to online processes as people across the globe are ordered to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. 

She said they are now working to speed up the Department of Tourism's online accreditation for hotels, and have been conducting regular web seminars to come up with strategies in dealing with the pandemic. 

"Our online trainings now are how to handle [the] post-COVID [situation]. All your frontliners have to wear masks, you have to give alcohol, 70%, you have to wear gloves. The room has to be sanitized," she said.

"We now have participants from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. We have more people participating. Before we could only have 50 to 100 in one place based on the room capacity; now we have more than a thousand per seminar. When we are back to normal, we will continue with our online seminars because we reach so many people," she added. 

Romulo-Puyat went on to share how they have adjusted their digital tourism campaigns because of the COVID-19 situation, coming up with ads on frontliners and dreaming of going to the Philippines when the quarantines end. 

"We will have a digital campaign based on dreaming. We're saying na stay home today, be safe, and wake up tomorrow in the Philippines. We have to be more innovative in terms of our digital campaign," she said. 

"Time and again we're always hit by all these... we have storms, recently we had the explosion of Taal Volcano, etc. But we've proven that Filipinos are resilient, we're innovative. And I'm confident that as soon as this is over, or when we finally have the new normal, we'll overcome this challenge and people will still realize that it's still more fun in the Philippines," she ended.