Tourism arrivals, revenues sink; midterm plan reviewed

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    The government is reviewing its tourism development plan amid more than 83 percent slump in arrivals and in revenues in 2020 due to the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    In a press conference, Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said the country received only 1.3 million foreign visitors last year, a decline of 83.97 percent from the 8.26 million arrivals in 2019.

    Total receipts generated from inbound tourism in 2020 stood at P81.4 billion, a decrease of 83.12 percent from P482.16 billion recorded in 2019.

    Puyat said the numbers do not include balikbayans. The DOT did not provide data on domestic tourism.

    Puyat said the National Tourism Development Plan 2016-2022 will be reviewed this quarter to reflect demand forecast as well as the results of an ongoing survey on consumer sentiment on travel in the face of the lingering effects of the pandemic.

    Puyat said the DOT had initially expected tourism to be more open in 2021 but recent developments, including the new strains of the virus, have made other countries more strict in their quarantine protocols. She cited Hong Kong which now imposes a 21-day quarantine on travellers.

    Puyat expressed hope the Philippines will be able to implement this year the so-called international travel bubbles with neighboring countries, initially with balikbayans.

    According to Puyat, domestic tourism will continue to be the main strategy to reboot tourism and that the DOT and the Tourism Promotion Board will spearhead product diversification and enhancement activities with the regions and local government units (LGUs).

    She said reopening of other tourism spots will depend on the LGUs and their readiness to implement strict health and safety guidelines.

    Puyat also reported through Bayanihan 2, the DOT-Department of Labor and Employment financial assistance program for affected tourism workers benefited a total of 77,724 recipients with a total disbursement of P388.62 million as of Jan. 7, 2021.

    Under the CARES for TRAVEL program of the DOT and the Small Business Corp., a total of 415 loan applications amounting to P247.5 million have been processed as of Dec. 29, 2020. (I. Isip)