Sans foreign visitors due to COVID-19, tourism receipts dive in June

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
Sans foreign visitors due to COVID-19, tourism receipts dive in June
This photo taken on June 17, 2020 shows a general shot of empty famous white beach of Boracay Island in central Philippines, as community quarantine against COVID-19 still continues throughout the country, with foreign tourists still banned on beaches.
AFP / Ernesto Cruz

MANILA, Philippines — Tourism slumped in the first half of the year, a direct effect of a virtual standstill inflected by the pandemic on the industry.

From January to June, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told Philstar.com foreign arrivals reached only 1.32 million, steady from March when the government imposed quarantine controls against the spread of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19). The number was down 68.1% year-on-year, she said in a text message on Monday.

The immediate effect of movement restrictions was heavily felt by the industry through closures of the country’s airports that eventually led to cancelled flights and accommodations. The impact was so severe that in June alone, Puyat said tourist arrival was expectedly “zero.”

As a result of lower number of tourists, revenues collected from their activities while staying here plummeted 66.7% annually to P81.05 billion in the first half, Puyat said.

The Duterte administration was said to have prioritized closing down towns and cities to save lives from the deadly virus in enforcing lockdowns. But even as the economy gradually reopened starting June 1, airport operations have been limited to bringing home stranded migrant workers, while leisure travel is still prohibited.

That said, before the pandemic struck, Puyat said “it is worth noting that January of this year, we had an 8.84% increase in visitor arrivals, and a 9.10% increase in terms of revenues.”

The January increases reflected the Philippines’ rising tourism market, thanks mainly to the Duterte regime’s friendlier bilateral relations with China. In 2019, Chinese tourists accounted for 21.1% of total foreign visitors, among the largest next only to South Koreans, and up from just 11.3% in 2016.

Revenues came in with the Chinese, boosting tourism receipts last year to a record-high of P482.15 billion. All in all, tourism contributed 12.7% to gross domestic product last year, also a record-high, and generating 5.7 million jobs.

The flip side of this China-driven tourism boom, however, are complaints of inappropriate behavior of Chinese visitors as well as illegal stay of some tourists that eventually look for work here. 

Prior to the pandemic, higher foreign arrivals and revenue targets were set this year, but Puyat said goalposts would not be revised despite unclear schedule on when foreigners would be allowed back in. For now, tourism officials are focused on reviving domestic tourism instead.

“The resumption of tourism operations will spur not only the recovery of the tourism industry but also the recovery of our nation. The revival of tourism is tantamount to the revival of communities that heavily relied on tourism to thrive,” Puyat said last Friday.

For this year, the government originally set to attract 9.2 million tourists, up from last year’s 8.26 million. The revenue target was set at higher P661 billion.






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