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Philippine tourism losses reach P401 billion in 2020

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Jan 12, 2021 5:09 pm

In its year-end report released today, the Department of Tourism said that due to the pandemic and entry restrictions, the country received only 1.3 million visitors from January to December 2020, a decline of 83.9% from the 8.2 million arrivals last year

Total receipts generated from inbound tourism in 2020 registered an estimated P81.40 billion, a decrease of 83% from 2019’s P482 billion—a difference of P401 million.

“With the closure of borders to international tourist traffic and the imposition of quarantine measures, tourism activities ground to a halt affecting various enterprises and displacing workers,” the report said.

As the lockdown in the early months resulted in stranded foreign and local tourists, DOT organized 1,219 repatriation missions, including sweeper flights with its regional offices, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) as well as the various embassies and local government units. A total of 32,360 foreign and 11,408 local tourists were assisted.

Anilao, Batangas 

“We led the enlistment of accommodation establishments for the use of stranded tourists and essential workers. In the regions where most of the tourists were stranded, sweeper flights were arranged and food and shelter provided,” DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat shared.

As of Jan. 10, 765 hotels nationwide are listed as quarantine facilities with a total of 72,547 rooms.

“As the pandemic unfolded and realizing the profound effect it would have on tourism, we immediately started preparing a Tourism Response and Recovery Program (TRRP) to serve as the industry’s blueprint for recovery. The plan formulation was also in response to the call of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for its members to prepare their respective plans pivoting towards the new normal.”

Through Bayanihan 2, the DOT-DOLE financial assistance program for affected tourism workers benefited a total of 77,724 recipients with a total disbursement of P388 million as of Jan. 7.

Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region 

Also under Bayanihan 2 is a program to assist tourism enterprises with their recovery. Under the CARES for TRAVEL program of the DOT and the Small Business Corporation, a total of 415 loan applications amounting to P247 million as of Dec. 29, 2020.

“The DOT is really thankful to Congress for the funds extended the tourism sector. These facilities will mean a lot for affected tourism workforce who have been out of work or given alternative work schemes. We hope to see businesses resuscitated, especially the MSMEs,” Puyat said.

The department spearheaded the crafting of Health and Safety Guidelines for the different subsectors of tourism including: accommodations, restaurants, tourist land transport, travel and tour operations, tour guides, island and beach destinations, dive establishments, staycation hotels, spa and meetings, incentives, convention and exhibition (MICE) facilities, and tourist attractions.

The online accreditation system was rolled out to facilitate registration and other procedures. As of Dec. 15, 2020, a total of 8,906 TEs have been accredited, up by 11.98% from 7,953 TEs in 2019.

El Nido, Palawan

“The Ridge to Reef Travel Corridor initiated by Baguio City with Region I was the first travel bubble and with its successful implementation, the systems and best practices can be replicated in other parts of the country,” Puyat said.

The DOT was also heavily involved in the reopening of Boracay, Bohol and El Nido. Other sites such as Batangas, Siargao and Zambales have also reopened.

The DOT called for a cap on the price of COVID tests, a mandatory requirement to ensure safe travels. TPB partnered with the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and the Philippine Children’s Medical Centre (PCMC) on the 50% subsidy of RTPCR testing cost.

“Our partnership with UP-PGH and PCMC has driven down the cost of the RTPCR, now coming out much cheaper than the Rapid Antigen Test cost.”

DOT/TPB provided P10 million to the Aklan Provincial Government to shoulder the RTPCR testing of tourism workforce in Boracay Island. The VIS.I.TA app was made available to LGUs free-of-charge, aimed at facilitating registration and contact tracing.

Subic Bay, Zambales

The Philippines received recognitions from Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure, Big 7 Travel and others, and was bestowed the WTTC SafeTravel Stamp, granted to governments and companies worldwide that have adopted the health and hygiene global standardized protocols by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The Philippines is the 100th country to have received the stamp.

“Domestic tourism will continue to be the main strategy to reboot Philippine tourism. The DOT and TPB will spearhead product diversification and enhancement activities with the regions and LGUs,” Puyat said.