Passengers from the luxury passenger cruise ship World Dream wear facemasks as they visit a theme park in Manila after the luxury cruise ship with more than 700 passengers, mostly from China and Hong Kong, arrived the day before at the port in Manila on Jan. 29, 2020. T
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Tourist arrivals, receipts fall by 50% as of April as coronavirus bites
( - May 20, 2020 - 8:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign tourist arrivals fell by more than half in the first four months of the year as the coronavirus outbreak and state-initiated lockdowns continue to crimp travel and tourism at home and abroad.

At Wednesday's Senate hearing tackling the government's response to the pandemic, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said international visitor arrivals from January to April stood at 1.3 million, plummeting 54% year-on-year.

That brought revenues from foreign tourist arrivals to P79.8 billion as of April, down 55.79% from P182.52 billion booked in the same period last year.

The massive declines demonstrate the full impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector, which felt the bite of the pandemic from flight and hotel booking cancellations to dismal tourist spending as early as January.

The devastation became more pronounced in March and April, when the government completely sealed off the island of Luzon from travel. 

"With both international and domestic travel restrictions in effect for the entirety of April, there have been no visiting tourists and therefore no revenue for the industry for this month," Puyat told senators.

Under the Duterte administration, tourism became a considerable dollar earner for the Philippines. Last year’s record-high of 8.2 million visitors translated to revenues of P482.15 billion from tourist activities, also a record-high. 

Travel agencies, airlines and hotels suffering from cancelled trips have separately asked the government to rescue them, but the finance department has so far been lukewarm to throw a financial lifeline to them.

But even as tourism receipts fall while confidence in international travel remains tepid, Puyat last month said the government's record-high targets will remain for now. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral 

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