DOT puts nationwide mall sale on hold
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - March 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism (DOT) is postponing the month-long Philippine Shopping Festival, scheduled to begin today, as it prioritizes the safety of Filipinos amid the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

“Given the alarming rise in COVID-19 infections all over the world during the past few days, the DOT has postponed the nationwide mall sale portion of the 2020 Philippine Shopping Festival until further notice,” the DOT said in a statement yesterday.

The Philippine Shopping Festival would have been the first ever shopping expo in the country, and was aimed at promoting the Philippines as a destination where shopping is fun, unique and affordable.

The festival was supposed to run from March 1 to 31 and covered areas in Metro Manila, Agusan del Norte, Antique, Bacolod,
 Baguio, Bataan, Bicol Region, Bukidnon, Bulacan, Butuan City, Cagayan De Oro, Cagayan Valley, CALABARZON, Camarines Sur, Capiz, Cebu, Davao, Ilocos Norte, Iloilo, Lanao Del Norte, Legazpi City in Albay, Leyte, Misamis Oriental, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Nueva Ecija, Palawan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, South Cotabato (General Santos City), and Zambales (Olongapo City).

The Philippine Shopping Festival was among the programs seen to help mitigate expected losses in the tourism sector caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, as foreign arrivals are expected to drop.

“As much as we want to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19, the safety of our citizens remains our priority. We advise the general public to maintain proper hygiene and follow the guidelines set by the Department of Health (DOH) to contain the spread of the virus,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

The DOT added that it has coordinated with mall establishments and is thankful for their support on the decision to postpone the nationwide sale to a later date for the safety of their customers, adding that “malls are still free to continue its day-to-day operations.”

“The DOT also recommends that malls follow the precautionary measures set by the DOH such as checking the temperatures of mall-goers before allowing them to enter and the provision of more hand sanitizers in their premises,” it added.

Based on the DOT’s Visitor Sample Survey in 2018, shopping is the most common tourist activity in the country at 38 percent.

Apart from mall sales, the DOT is also pushing for domestic tourism, with the offering of affordable airfares and cheaper hotel accommodations.

The DOT and other tourism stakeholders earlier announced the roll-out of more value-added packages, discounted accommodation and marked down prices on domestic flights, as part of its efforts to boost the domestic tourism sector as foreign arrivals are expected to be affected by the temporary travel ban imposed on China and its special administrative regions’ Hong Kong and Macau due to COVID-19.

“This ambitious project, designed to increase tourism expenditure in the country, would not have been possible without the full support and cooperation of the nation’s mall operators, retailers, franchise holders, hotel and tour operators and travel agencies,” Puyat said.

Under the National Tourism Development Plan, the Philippines is targeting to hit P661 billion in tourism revenues this year. 

Associations supporting the event include the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association, Philippine Franchise Association, Philippine Hotel Owners Association Inc., Philippine Retailers Association, Philippine Tour Operators Association, Philippine Travel Agencies Association and Tourism Congress of the Philippines.

Supporting airlines Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Air Asia and the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines said they would be slashing ticket prices to spur domestic tourism. – With Ralph Edwin Villanueva

COVID-19 MALL SALE
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