Standard health protocols, personalized trips key to PH tourism recovery, says survey 

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    Pointing out how the pandemic “drastically changed people’s relation with streets, public spaces, and public facilities,” the tourism chief cited the timely reopening of Intramuros to attract visitors with its accessible open spaces that allow movement within dense urban areas. (Photo by Rhoy Cobilla)

    Health protocols that are standard across tourism destinations and personalized packages will encourage more Filipinos to travel locally.

    These are some of the salient points obtained from the online survey conducted by the Department of Tourism (DOT) in partnership with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) – Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism, and Guide to the Philippines (GTTP).

    “The travel and tourism industry has been beset by myriad challenges and changes since the start of the pandemic, and through our national travel survey we have gained vital insights into the most pressing requirements and needs of both tourists and industry stakeholders,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

    Armed with the information, Puyat said they are able to determine the issues that need to be addressed as they continue to craft and implement strategies that seek to uplift the nation’s tourism industry.

    Titled “The Evolving Landscape of Domestic Travel in the Philippines: A study of travelers and tourism enterprises amidst the pandemic”, the two-pronged survey gathered responses from a total of 7,243 travelers across all 78 provinces in the country, and from 108 tourism enterprises with the objective of getting their sentiments on the “new normal” of travel that will serve as inputs to the DOT’s strategies to jumpstart the tourism industry.

    Puyat reiterated the DOT’s call for uniformed travel protocols across tourism destinations, which survey respondents pointed out as the top source of travel inconvenience.

    “As always, we shall be taking a multi-lateral approach to address current issues relating to the pandemic, working more closely with local government units, stakeholders, and local communities. Guided by the new survey results, the DOT and its partners will be able to plot the crucial next steps for the recovery of the tourism industry, creating better, more efficient and effective strategies where there is mutual and inclusive growth for all,” Puyat said.

    The survey showed that among the common traveler sentiments are: travelling is perceived as an answer to keeping their sanity; travel behavior has changed thereby opening opportunities for introducing new travel products and services; travel and safety protocols need to be standardized; travelling can be personalized; and travelers’ preferences have evolved.

    Most of the respondents perceive travel as a way to keep their sanity, hence, a priority expense that is planned for and budgeted.

    Respondents from the 31-40 and 41-50 age groups are willing to spend P1,000 to P3,500 for travelling after the pandemic, while respondents that are 60 years old and above specified a higher budget of P3,500 to P5,000.

    The survey also showed that for price-sensitive travelers, travel can be simplified by offering tourism destinations with the most relaxed health protocols, particularly those with reduced cost and frequency of COVID-19 testing requirements.

    On the other hand, value-sensitive travelers prefer taking trips that are personalized or tailored according to their needs and objectives for the next two or three years.

    Puyat said that in order to help travel agencies and tour operators enhance their travel packages and services, the DOT shall roll out product and market development initiatives such as business-to-business meetings, benchmarking, product audit, and familiarization tours that feature new sites and attractions that will appeal to more people to travel locally.

    The survey results also showed that traveler preferences have also evolved, with most respondents choosing outdoor activities in well-ventilated areas such as going to the beach, hiking, and biking in their leisure travels.

    Additionally, respondents prefer travel with family members, with safety as the primary reason.

    “As gathered from the national travel survey, there is a clamor for more outdoor tourism activities, historical and cultural destinations,” shared Puyat.

    Pointing out how the pandemic “drastically changed people’s relation with streets, public spaces, and public facilities,” the tourism chief cited the timely reopening of Intramuros to attract visitors with its accessible open spaces that allow movement within dense urban areas.

    “With the easing of quarantine restrictions while the recommended health and safety protocols remain in place, Intramuros is ready and prepared to welcome back the public to the city’s many plazas, open spaces, heritage sites, and museums,” enthused Puyat.

    In terms of proximity, results showed that travelers also prefer traveling closer to home, with the exception of Metro Manila residents who welcome traveling across the country.

    This supports the findings from the initial survey conducted by the DOT, AIM, and GTTP in May 2020.

    Meanwhile, the main survey findings for tourism enterprises were: stability of public health is perceived as the minimum requirement to accelerate the opening of local tourism; a standardized set of health protocols and requirements are needed to promote tourist activity; financial survival (cash flow) remains to be the most pressing concerns of tourism enterprises; and assistance in the form of advising is needed by tourism enterprises.

    Marketing and promotions of tourism products and services remain to be the key point of intervention, followed by financial assistance.