Lockdowns derail Philippines' tourism rise
This photo taken on February 23, 2020 shows a worker cleaning chairs at the boarding area while arriving passengers disembark at the international airport in Manila. The Philippines has three cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus that emerged in central China at the end of last year that has now killed more than 2,400 people and spread around the world.
AFP/Romeo Gacad

Lockdowns derail Philippines' tourism rise

Prinz Magtulis (Philstar.com) - February 10, 2021 - 5:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ nascent tourism industry suffered a huge setback last year from pandemic-induced lockdowns that pulled down foreign arrivals to their lowest level since at least 1999.

Foreign arrivals plummeted to just 1.48 million last year, down 82.05% year-on-year, data from the tourism department showed.

That data was even revised slightly upwards from 1.3 million estimated last month. The tourism agency said the previous estimate covered only foreign entry until December 28 as arrival cards used for tally did not arrive until later. The latest figure captured the year-long arrivals.

Nevertheless, the significant drop was very well expected as the Philippines was shut off to the rest of the world from March to September as part of lockdowns to control the pandemic’s spread. That, in turn, reversed tourism’s recent uptrend as a booming dollar source for the Philippines. Tourist receipts last year amounted to P82.24 billion from a record-high of P482.15 billion in 2019.

Among the top markets, visitors from South Korea brought in the highest tourist spending of P24.58 billion, followed by Americans who contributed P12.98 billion. Chinese tourists ranked third with P8.78 billion in spending, followed by Japanese with P5.25 billion.

Australians spent an average of P2.77 billion in the Philippines last year, followed by the British with P2.63 billion and Canadians with P2.56 billion, data showed.

It was only in October last year that the Philippines allowed some international flights in, but leisure travel remains highly prohibited.

It remains unclear whether the Duterte government would stick with its 10-million target for foreign arrivals by 2022, which by now has become ambitiously high given that the health crisis is projected to linger longer than anticipated. A decision on the matter is expected next month.

What is sure for now is that focus had been diverted to supporting local tourism now that Filipinos are permitted to travel to some tourist destinations so long as health protocols are followed. In October, world-renowned Boracay beach in Aklan and Baguio City led some of the destinations like Palawan that reopened for business, subject to tight health monitoring.

Consequently, last year’s drop in foreign tourists were registered across all nationalities. This includes Chinese tourists whose number plunged by a massive 90.2% year-on-year to 170,432, the lowest since 2009. Since President Rodrigo Duterte entered office in 2016, the surge in overall number of foreign tourists correspondingly increased with that of the Chinese.

Last year, Chinese’s share of foreign tourists also slid to 11.5% from 21.1% in 2019, data showed. — with Rosette Adel

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