Tourism council convenes to plot measures vs COVID-19
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - March 3, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat will convene the Tourism Coordinating Council (TCC) tomorrow to discuss ways to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the tourism industry.

“The DOT is focused on ways to mitigate the impact of covid-19 and save jobs where we can,” Puyat told The Star.

“That is why I have called for a meeting of the Tourism Coordinating Council this Wednesday to assess the situation and find ways to keep the industry active and vibrant, aside from our push for domestic tourism,” she said.

TCC is a 25-member body created under Republic Act 9593 (Tourism Act of 2009, Section 133) to serve as the coordinating body for national tourism development efforts. 

Among its members are the heads of concerned national agencies and government offices, DOT attached agencies, non-governmental organizations and the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) representing the private sector.

In 2018, employment in the tourism industry reached 5.4 million, 1.8 percent higher than the 5.3 million registered the previous year, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed. 

Based on the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), DOT is targeting tourism sector employment to hit 6.5 million in 2022.

DOT and other tourism stakeholders earlier announced the rollout of more value-added packages, discounted accommodation and marked-down prices on domestic flights as part of efforts to boost the domestic tourism sector as foreign arrivals are expected to be affected by the temporary travel ban imposed on China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, due to COVID-19.

The domestic tourism market has grown 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 NTDP.

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

Apart from the discounted fares, DOT also planned a month-long nationwide sale in March, the Philippine Shopping Festival, in a bid to encourage tourist spending.

This,however, was postponed to prioritize the safety of citizens and tourists amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

“As much as we want to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19, the safety of our citizens remains our priority. We advise the general public to maintain proper hygiene and follow the guidelines set by the Department of Health to contain the spread of the virus,” Puyat said.

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