World should know about Philippines protocols vs COVID-19, travel industry group says

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
World should know about Philippines protocols vs COVID-19, travel industry group says
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

MANILA, Philippines — To address tourism setbacks caused by the coronavirus outbreak and to lure tourists to the country, the Pacific Asia Travel Association suggested letting the rest of the world know the safety protocols the Philippines has in place.

PATA chair Roberto “Bob Zozobrado explained that “it’s [the] scare factor that’s stopping people from coming to our country or any other country.”

“How do we mitigate the impact of the scare factor? We see to it that the medical protocols that are now in place in our country are communicated effectively abroad,” Zozobrado said in a recent chance interview.

PATA is a non-profit association “internationally acclaimed for acting as a catalyst for the responsible development of travel and tourism to, from and within the Asia Pacific region.”

Take a page from Malaysia

Zozobrado said that he recently saw a press release form Malaysia with a headline indicating that its “hotels and attractions are compliant with the medical standards against COVID-19.”

He said these are factors why foreign tourists may still choose to travel to Malaysia.

“So, of course, if you’re a foreigner reading that you’ll know [it’s] safe,” Zozobrado said.

“Our protocols are even more stringent but is it communicated effectively abroad? That’s the question. The DOH (Department of Health) should  see to it that what we are doing here should also be told abroad,” he said, adding that the Department of Tourism should do the same.

Coronavirus 'overblown by media'

The PATA chair said he thinks that the coronavirus “is overblown up by the media.”

He lamented how the international media is only reporting about the number of cases confirmed and being investigated but are failing to highlight that thousands have been discharged and recovered as well.

As of March 2, the Philippines has only three confirmed COVID-19 cases with one recorded death.

According to Zozobrado, the Philippine tourism industry has suffered because of the COVID-19 scare.

“The effect? It’s really bad, really bad. Hotel occupancy is down and even the tour operators locally have been receiving cancellations and why are they receiving cancellations? Because people are scared,” he said.

Zozobrado cited that Boracay, one of the country’s top tourist destination, is among the areas that felt the COVID-19 scare effect especially during the Chinese New Year when there was a decline in Chinese tourists.

No to travel ban vs Korea

Likewise, Zozobrado opposed the potential expansion of temporary travel ban on tourists from South Korea, the top tourist source market of the country, saying the health department, the Bureau of Immigration and the Philippine National Police is “doing a good job” at containing the virus spread through health advisories, sanitation and screening, among other precationary measures.

“As far as banning citizens of other country or travelers from other countries are concerned, we in the tourism industry— I mean at least for PATA, I speak for PATA, we feel that the Philippines should not ban any nationality or any traveler from any country because it is as far as the tourism industry’s concern, it’s our duty to sell and market the country and bring in people,” he said.

On Thursday, Howard Lance Uyking, DOT’s assistant secretary for Branding and Marketing Communications, said that the 2020 tourist arrivals target has already been affected by the temporary travel ban on China, Macau, Hong Kong—and briefly on Taiwan—due to the rise in coronavirus cases.

The country’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease also imposed a temporary travel ban on tourists arriving from North Gyeongsang province in South Korea.

South Korea has been the top source market of the country since 2010. They are still the top tourists of the country with a total of 1.98 million arrivals or a 22.48% increase in 2019.

China comes second with 1.74 million visitors or a 38.58-percent growth, followed by United States of America with 1.06 million arrivals or 2.90% increase.

Japan and Taiwan were the fourth and fifth top tourists with 682,788 and 327,273 arrivals, respectively.

Tourist receipts showed that South Korea is also the highest spender with USD 2,614,685,263.92; followed by China, USD 2,330,491,557.70; and the United States, USD 1,208.970,514.75.  

The top tourist source markets of the country are also among the top 10 highest spending markets. This roster includes Japan, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Germany and Malaysia. 

Despite recent tourism setbacks, Uyking said they are firming up the country’s revenue through promotion of domestic tourism.

“In terms of assessment, we’re still firming up the numbers since binabawi namin ‘yung revenue side sa domestic travels,” he said on Thursday.

Asked how long will it take for the tourism industry to recover, PATA chair said it may take six months “because tour operators plan their tours at least six months ahead.”






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