Discounted airfares, accommodation to boost domestic tourism
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Offering discounted deals on domestic flights and accommodation for Filipino travelers would help boost the growth of the domestic tourism market this year, the head of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said.

In an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the DOT would publish the discounted rates to be offered by airlines and accommodation establishments this week.

She cited that a roundtrip airfare to Iloilo, for example, could drop to as low as P1,000.

“Of course we have to hand it to the airlines, we asked them if they could lower their rates just to spur domestic tourism,” Puyat said.

The DOT and other tourism stakeholders earlier announced it would focus on the domestic tourism market this year as foreign arrivals is expected to be affected by the temporary travel ban from China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

As part of efforts to focus on the local market, the tourism sector has agreed to roll out more value-added packages, discounted accommodation and marked down prices on domestic flights.

Puyat emphasized the growth of the domestic tourism market over the years, as it already registered at 111 million domestic tourists in 2018, exceeding the 86-million domestic tourists target for 2022 under the National Tourism Development Plan.

While 2019 figures have yet to be released by the Philippine Statistics Authority in March, Puyat said this is expected to surpass the previous year’s numbers as Boracay was already opened in 2019.

“So we expect it to be higher than 111 million,” Puyat said.

Despite the threat of COVID-19, Puyat expressed optimism in the continued growth of the domestic tourism sector.

“You have to note that during the H1N1 and the MERS, domestic tourism increased,” Puyat said.

“But it’s going to be the first time that the airlines will cut their rates, the hotels will even cut off 50 percent of their published rates just to spur domestic tourism,” she added.

Apart from the domestic market, Puyat said earlier that the DOT would also intensify its marketing and promotions to markets unaffected by the COVID-19 global health emergency.

“What we have to tell our tourists there is that it’s safe to come to the country. No local transmission and the tourism establishments are ready,” Puyat said.

In an earlier joint statement, the DOT and the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), which represents the country’s tourism stakeholders, assured the public, especially foreign and domestic tourists, that the Philippines remains a safe destination for travel.

“All preventive and precautionary measures are being put in place by the national government to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus including the temporary entry ban for tourists coming from China, its Special Administrative Regions (SARs), Hong Kong and Macau, and the 14-day quarantine for Filipinos coming from the said places,” the joint statement read.

The DOT emphasized that even before the temporary ban, the tourism sector already implemented safeguards in light of the COVID-19, noting that it earlier released guidelines in handling guests in tourism enterprises during this global emergency.

“In our airports and some tourism establishments, temperatures are taken via infrared thermometers before allowing guests to enter, and more hand sanitizers have been made available for use,” it added.

Both the DOT and the TCP emphasized that the safety of the public, especially tourists and employees in the tourism sector, remains the country’s priorty.

“As we monitor the situation closely, we remind the public to maintain proper hygiene. Wash your hands regularly, wear a surgical mask when going to crowded areas if you have a cough or a cold, and stay indoors or seek medical help if you have a fever,” the DOT and the TCP said.

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