P3.1T domestic revenue eyed for tourism’s quick recovery

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    FILIPINOS travelling, vacationing, and dining out accounted for a whopping 85 percent or P3.1 trillion of the country’s P3.6 trillion tourism revenue in 2019 and the Department of Tourism (DOT) is banking on this same source to fuel the industry’s recovery even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to linger.

    Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. told hosts of the public briefing “Laging Handa” that the immediate focus is domestic tourism by coming up with plans to stimulate local travel and promote low density activities capitalizing on nature-based assets.

    “We’re confident na mapapabilis ang recovery ng ating industriya kung matutulungan natin itong mga local enterprises natin. Itong sa domestic tourism kasi, ang hindi alam ng karamihan mas malaki actually ang nakukuha nating revenue from domestic tourism. In 2019 ang total revenue natin for tourism nasa 3.6 trillion pesos. Out of this amount, ang maa-attribute natin sa domestic tourism nasa P3.1 trillion, kulang-kulang mga 85 percent ng total tourism revenue (We’re confident that we can speed up the industry recovery if we boost our local enterprises. Many do not realize our domestic delivered the lion’s share of our tourism revenue. In 2019, the total figure was P3.6 trillion. Out of this, domestic tourism accounted for P3.1 trillion, more or less 85 percent of the total),” Bengzon said.

    Toward this end, the DOT has cautiously opened up local tourist destinations and even lifted age restrictions for hotel staycation for families.

    “We recognized that children have to come along when families travel. We have 13 hotels here in NCR in the 4-star and 5-star category where staycation is allowed. In the case of Boracay, there is no age restriction. This is part of the drive to get families going out on trips again,” Bengzon said.

    Nonetheless, he stressed that health and safety protocols remain in place to be strictly observed as the threat of coronavirus infection remains.

    One factor that the DOT sees as an obstacle for tourism traffic is the high cost of mandatory RT-PCR tests that jacks up the expense for travels.

    “We are encouraged by the issuance of the Executive Order just last week imposing a price cap on swab testing. We are looking if it is possible for the DOT to partly subsidize the cost of RT-PCR. We will work this out with relevant government agencies,” he said.

    Citing the negative feedback on mass gatherings of tourists in Boracay last month, the DOT official said the cooperation of local governments is going to be crucial in the effort to reinvigorate the tourism industry.

    “Secretary (Berna) Puyat has met with local authorities and we came out with reminders against breaches in our safety protocols. But of course, the cooperation of the tourists themselves is still the key factor in this,” he added.

    Meanwhile, the DOT and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) encouraged displaced tourism workers to apply for the emergency employment program of the government or its one-time cash assistance.

    In a statement, the DOLE and the DOT asked the workers, both from formal and informal sectors, to avail of the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) or Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Program.

    “Tourism industry workers, such as tour guides and service staff, may receive a one-time financial aid amounting to P5,000 under CAMP,” said the DOLE.

    “Workers in the informal sector, whose means of livelihood are tourism-related, may apply for inclusion in the cash-for-work program under TUPAD,” it added.

    For formal sector workers, DOLE said establishments with DOT accreditation may directly visit https://reports.dole.gov.ph/ for the online application.

    After filling up the online form, each applicant shall be given a tracking number to monitor the progress of their application.

    On the other hand, the labor department said informal sector workers in the tourism industry may signify their intention to avail of the program through their local government units.

    After providing the necessary information, the applicants for emergency employment shall undergo the necessary profiling activity. – With Gerard Naval