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Domestic travel recovery seen to start by early 2022

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
Domestic travel recovery seen to start by early 2022
In a report, UK-based Oxford Economics said domestic travel will be the saving grace of tourism in the Philippines and in the major destinations in the Asia Pacific region.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Domestic tourism will likely start to recover as early as next year, but the rebound of foreign travel will have to wait until 2024, a global think tank said.

In a report, UK-based Oxford Economics said domestic travel will be the saving grace of tourism in the Philippines and in the major destinations in the Asia Pacific region.

Last year, the tourism industry was among the hardest hit sectors globally as the pandemic curtailed travels and leisure trips to contain the spread of the virus and prevent the emergence of new variants.

For 2021, both local and international travel remained limited as many countries, including the Philippines, reimposed lockdown measures due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and slower vaccine rollout.

However, Oxford’s Asia Pacific lead economist Michael Shoory said domestic visitors are projected to exceed pre-pandemic levels next year.

“The domestic market will drive the recovery in aggregate tourism, such that total visitors return to or exceed 2019 volumes next year,” he said.

“By contrast, inbound travel is projected to remain heavily affected for many destinations and will not recover until 2024 for the region and as late as 2025 for some individual destinations,” Shoory said.

For the Philippines, Oxford estimates that domestic travelers will account for almost 80 percent of tourists by next year. This is higher than the pre-pandemic level of over 60 percent.

Tourism in the Philippines remains heavily dependent on the domestic market. In terms of expenditures, domestic tourism accounted for 84 percent of the total P3.74 trillion receipts in 2019.

On the flip side, Shoory said the support from domestic tourism during the expected weakness in international travel is limited by typically shorter average length of stay and lower average spending of domestic guests.

Further, the outlook for international travel in Asia Pacific is weaker than that for other regions in the coming years as many governments will likely remain more cautious about opening up their borders.

Relative to the pre-pandemic year of 2019, tourism in 2020 dipped 46 percent and will continue to decline, albeit at a much softer pace of 26 percent this year.

By 2022, growth will be recorded at eight percent and will further increase to 29 and 39 percent by 2023 and 2024, respectively. It should be noted that all these will be driven by the domestic market.

“We assume that 90 percent of the pre-pandemic domestic market returns by 2022 and around half of the decline in outbound trips from 2019 to 2022 are converted to domestic travel,” Shoory said.

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