Stop this practice

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

For a little over two years, the coronavirus held a tight, even deadly grip on the planet. During that time, especially in the early days, life ground to a halt. Strict measures such as total lockdowns were implemented to prevent the spread of the disease. People were ordered to stay indoors. Especially hit were businesses, forced to shut down. After the biological smoke cleared, many businesses never recovered and permanently closed.

Things are seemingly returning to normal despite warnings of another surge if people are careless. Businesses that survived the lockdowns have reopened, offering promos to entice customers once again. Malls have been filling up with people. Restaurants are enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Cinemas have resumed operations. Most importantly, tourism has come alive.

I have friends and relatives who wasted no time traveling to local and international destinations. But what we want is for tourists to come to the country and enjoy what we have to offer. The Philippines is known for popular tourist spots such as Boracay, islands in Palawan, and places in Davao, Baguio, and more. Boracay no longer requires recent testing for COVID-19. Simply present your vaccination cards and you’re in. I believe the same is practiced in other places. This is how we bring back foreign visitors.

One such place that was recently in the spotlight was Virgin Island in Panglao, Bohol, but for the wrong reason. A piece of paper listing prices of food apparently ordered by a group of tourists at a food vendor on the island went viral because of the exorbitant prices. A total of ?26,100 for a variety of seafood. The Philippines is no stranger to seafood having more than 7,000 islands so seeing the overpriced items caused an uproar. Social media immediately called out the food vendor for capitalizing on the remoteness of the place and more importantly, taking advantage of foreign tourists who settled the bill lest they be left on the island by the boatman.

Fortunately, local officials such as the town mayor and the Bohol governor immediately suspended all tourist activities on Virgin Island including the removal of all vendors. Only sightseeing is currently allowed until they find a way to make the island more tourist friendly. I don’t understand why some establishments take advantage of tourists. They not only tarnish the image of the place but of the Philippines and its people. Travel bloggers have already caught up on this incident, citing similar places like Bali and Phuket where it is much cheaper to be a tourist. Not edifying, to say the least.

We need to stop treating foreign tourists as money bags waiting to be emptied. An establishment should treat foreigners as they treat locals. There is no better way to sell the country than to have foreigners talk about us in a good light. I also think the local government should investigate just how long this practice on Virgin Island has been going on. These should include the boats that ferry tourists in and out of the place. And as some have noticed, do these establishments issue official receipts, and do they pay taxes? Let this be a warning to opportunistic vendors. We want tourists to return, hopefully with relatives and friends in tow. Not leave with a bad taste in the mouth due to five-star hotel seafood prices on a sandbar.


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