Philippines among the 'laggards' in Asia's tourism revival
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.
AFP/Romeo Gacad

Philippines among the 'laggards' in Asia's tourism revival

Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - April 9, 2021 - 11:46am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' tourism industry is poised to recover last in Asia as the country struggles to arrest coronavirus spread, likely dealing a huge blow on what was once a booming dollar source for the economy.

Together with India, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Philippines is likely to be among the "laggards" in Asia's tourism revival, ANZ Research said in a report on Friday. This is because these destinations remain "weak" in terms of reopening to tourists amid a sluggish domestic vaccination and uncontrolled local outbreaks. 

"So until their domestic virus situation is deemed lowrisk, the tourism sectors in India, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are likely to be the laggards, even though they have relatively higher exposure to tourists from economies that are ahead of the vaccination curve," ANZ explained.

On the other end of the spectrum, Singapore appears to be the best-placed to lead the tourism recovery in the region, ANZ said. It has had few to no local virus transmission in recent months and has the fastest vaccine rollout in the region, prompting Singaporean authorities to reopen its borders to travellers from Australia, Brunei, mainland China, New Zealand and Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Thailand has been "proactive" in trying to kick-start the recovery of its tourism sector. It has reopened its borders to international tourists since fourth quarter last year, and recently reduced quarantine restrictions for vaccinated travellers. "Still, the pace of domestic vaccination nationwide will hinder the pace of the recovery," ANZ said.

If ANZ's outlook is realized, it would not be surprising at all after the Philippines was shut off to the rest of the world from March to September last year as part of lockdowns to control the pandemic’s spread. 

The consequence was massive. Tourist receipts in 2020 crashed to P82.24 billion from a record-high of P482.15 billion in 2019. At the same time, foreign arrivals plummeted to just 1.48 million last year, down 82.05% year-on-year.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas was hoping for tourism to gain ground.  From a massive 79.5% annual slump in 2020 income, tourist receipts are seen to grow 15% this year and a faster 20% in 2022.  

But that target — together with the tourism department's own goal of capturing 10 million foreigners by 2022 — has become more difficult to achieve now after a renewed surge in infections triggered fresh restrictions in Metro Manila and four nearby areas, which some sectors partly blamed to the tourism reopening. 

What is sure for now is that focus had been diverted to supporting local tourism in low-risk areas, as the government has yet to indicate when it plans to reopen borders to foreign travelers. "A contained domestic virus outbreak is a pre-requisite for a tourism recovery," ANZ said.

"Economies with high COVID-19 cases will have a more challenging time capturing travel demand and negotiating travel bubble arrangements, regardless of their own reopening policies," it added.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 8, 2021 - 9:11am

Find the latest travel and tourism news from around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic. Main image by AFP/Romeo Gacad

May 8, 2021 - 9:11am

The Department of Tourism welcomes the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on the point-to-point air travel of tourists from the NCR Plus area to other destinations across Philippines, which will spur economic activities.

“The point-to-point air travel is a temporary means to gradually revive the tourism industry, provide relief to tourism enterprises and generate livelihood to some of the displaced workers in the tourism sector," says Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

May 7, 2021 - 4:09pm

Japan Airlines posted an annual net loss of $2.6 billion Friday but did not release a forecast for the current financial year, citing uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.

The carrier, Japan's second-largest by market share, suffered a net loss of 286.7 billion yen for the year through March -- its first full-year result in the red since it relisted on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2012.

"There has been no indication of passenger demand recovery yet" due to restrictions on international travel and tougher immigration measures, JAL said.

"Our situation has been severe throughout this fiscal year." — AFP

May 7, 2021 - 11:56am

Australia is likely to remain shut to visitors until late 2022, the country's trade and tourism minister said Friday, as another global coronavirus surge smashed hopes of a quick reopening.

Minister Dan Tehan said a wave of cases on the Indian sub-continent showed Australia's near blanket ban on arrivals was still essential to keep the country Covid-free.

Since March 20, 2020, Australians have been barred from travelling overseas and a hard-to-get individual exemption is needed for foreign visitors to enter the country.

It is "very hard to determine" when borders could reopen, Tehan told Sky News, "the best guess would be in the middle to the second half of next year".

Before the pandemic, around one million short-term visitors entered the country each month. That figure is now around 7,000. — AFP

May 5, 2021 - 6:51pm

The Palace announces travel restrictions have been expanded to include passengers who have been to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka within 14 days of arrival.

Those travelers will be barred entry to the Philippines from May 7 to May 14. 

May 5, 2021 - 12:55pm

With tests, vaccinations and isolation areas, cruise ship companies are hoping for smoother sailing this travel season after fears over COVID-stricken ships rocked the industry last year.

Cruise companies have lost tens of billions of dollars while hundreds of thousands of people have lost jobs as countries banned ships from their ports.

The industry's woes started in February last year when the Diamond Princess and its 4,000 passengers spent weeks in quarantine in port in Japan as coronavirus infections on board climbed, reaching 700. — AFP

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