novel coronavirus
In this February 18, 2020 file photo, workers disinfect the safety handrails and benches of a coach of the Light Rail Transit Line 2 at the Recto station in Manila on Monday as part of the precautionary measure against the Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease (2019-nCoV ARD) of the Light Rail Transit Authority.
The STAR/Miguel De Guzman
‘Nationwide shopping sale’ seen luring local, foreign tourists amid coronavirus fears
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - February 18, 2020 - 8:04pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 8:57 p.m.) — Shopping is up front and center in the government’s drive to avert the negative impact of the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) on the otherwise booming tourism sector.
 
Apart from discounted tour packages, accommodation and flights, the Department of Tourism said Tuesday it is organizing a “nationwide” shopping sale in malls across the archipelago to lure both domestic and foreign tourists.

'All the malls'

The move was announced a day after the Tourism department reported a new record-high of 8.26 million foreign tourists that visited the Philippines last year, and comes on the heels of government concerns that the tourism sector would take a hit from travel bans due to COVID-19.
 
"All the malls — Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao — will be participating," Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a televised interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel.
 
Malls have become an integral part of Filipino's consumption, which powers around three-fourths of the Philippine economy.
 
A gauge of strong Filipino shopping consumption can be gleaned from the financial statements of conglomerates. Last year, SM Prime Holdings, the country’s largest operator of shopping centers with 74 malls, recorded an eight-percent annual increase in shopping revenues.

“Ayala Malls supports the DOT in boosting tourism and will participate in the proposed nationwide mall sale in March,” the mall chain management told Philstar.com.
 
With the expected influx of shoppers, Puyat said she is in talks with the Department of Health to ensure “precautionary measures” like body temperature checks and disinfectants are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
 
“We actually planned this months ago but we decided to continue it for the whole month,” she added.

Potential traffic jams

Since most malls are located in the capital, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) typically asks mall operators to suspend weekend sales and promos in a bid to prevent worsening the holiday-induced traffic congestion.
 
It is unclear if the current tourism plan to lure more shoppers to the malls was coordinated with the MMDA or with local government units for traffic management plans. The Transportation department told Philstar.com it is not involved in the planning of the program.
 
A vaccine is yet to be produced against COVID-19, which first emerged in Wuhan province in China last December and has since killed nearly 1,800 people, including one in the Philippines.
 
The virus prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to ban the entry travel to and from China, the country’s second largest tourist source last year, accounting for around 22 percent of total foreign visitors.  
 
READ: Philippines surpasses 2019 target of 8.2-M foreign tourist arrivals

Last week, the National Economic and Development Authority said the country’s tourism industry alone could lose P22.7 billion in revenues per month amid the coronavirus disease outbreak. 

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