Tourist arrivals, receipts plunge

    Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. (left) and Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat. (PNA photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.)

    Tourist arrivals and revenues fell more than 70 percent in the first seven months of the year, according to Benito Bengzon Jr., undersecretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT)
    Arrivals plunged 73 percent to 1.3 million visitors from 4.64 million in the same period last year. Receipts dipped 72 percent to P81 billion from P289.28 billion a year ago, Bengzon said.

    In a television interview over ANC yesterday, Bengzon said tourism was hit hard by the travel restrictions that started mid-March.

    However, Bengzon said the DOT is optimistic tourism domestic can help accelerate the recovery of the industry.

    Of the P12.7-percent contribution of tourism to gross domestic product last year, 10.8 percent came from domestic tourism which recorded 109 million trips.

    Bengzon also expressed confidence that as the economy opens and quarantines ease, local tourists will create and stimulate demand.

    Bengzon anchored his optimism to a recent survey which showed 77 percent of Filipinos were willing to travel even without the vaccine.

    “This is a good sign appetite to travel is still there. But we will make sure the necessary safety and health protocols are place in the entire tourism value chain, from accommodation, restaurants to transportation,” he added.

    Bengzon cited another survey involving stakeholders which showed that 82 percent said their jobs were affected one way or an other by the pandemic, either they lost jobs completely, went on leave without pay or went on a no work, no pay arrangement.

    “We are hoping we can get assistance from the (stimulus) bills being pushed in Congress,” he added.

    Bengzon said the DOT hopes borders will reopen soon enough.

    At present leisure travel is not allowed and the only foreign nationals allowed to enter the country now are foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals, diplomats, members of international accredited organizations and airline crew.

    As part of the recovery strategy, the DOT is looking at smaller and high-value tourists taking bespoke or customized travel arrangements.

    Bengzon sees more outdoors, low contact tourism like farm tourism as a new trend.

    The DOT is also developing travel bubbles in certain points, or point-to-point between two areas with low to very low virus cases to stimulate inbound travel

    Bengzon added the DOT will continue to promote integrated tourism programs.

    “We want to bring business back to the hotels and resorts and get their occupancy rates at comfortable levels,” he said.

    Part of strategy as well is to provide stakeholders access to low interest loans and credit facilities.

    Accommodation establishments which would retrofit facilities to new health protocols will be given incentives.

    Admitting tourism is challenged, Bengzon said: “The next few months difficult for us; if we see movement around the country and

    inflow, (that) will give opportunities for investments. All in all, we are optimistic.” (I.Isip)