MANILA, 14 August 2020: Tourist arrivals to the Philippines slumped by 73% during the seven months of 2020 giving the country 1.3 million visits according to a Philippines News Agency report.
Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon said the performance was down from 4,852,107 international tourists recorded during the same months in 2019. Tourism revenue dipped 72% to PHP81 billion.
The big decline in tourism started in mid-March when travel restrictions were introduced to contain the spread of Covid-19.
With virtually no foreigners visiting the country for five months the country now relies entirely on domestic tourism to prop up earnings. PNA said the tourism undersecretary was optimistic local travel could compensate as the country opens for domestic tourism.
He claimed 10.8% of the country’s GDP could be attributed to domestic tourism. Based on the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, domestic tourism expenditure reached PHP3.1 trillion while earnings from international inbound tourism reached PHP548.8 billion in 2019.
“We have a huge domestic tourism base. Last year, there were about 109 million domestic trips. And we’re very confident that as we open up destinations, it will be the local tourists who will create demand,” Bengzon added.
However, international tourism is not going to return to the Philippines any time soon despite talk of potential tourism bubbles that could tap travel from China. The country remains closed and the inbound tour operators are now facing a crisis.
Bengzon said the tourism sector is hoping to receive financial assistance through a bill being pushed through Congress.
Financial aid worth PHP10 billion will be allocated to the tourism industry under the proposed ‘Bayanihan to Recover as One Act’ (Bayanihan 2). In the approved House version, however, the amount originally appropriated for working capital loans was realigned to infrastructure, a move decried by various tourism stakeholders.
“We have been virtually shut down for close to 150 days with no source of income. Infrastructure development can resume as we head into normalcy, but for now, the priority for stakeholders is financial assistance in the various forms outlined in the provisions of the bill,” Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jose Clemente III said earlier this week.
In a position paper, the Department of Tourism agreed that the sector needs more “direct” financial assistance and proposed that the reconciled version of the Senate and House bills provide PHP9.5 billion to finance DOT programmes for critically impacted businesses in the industry through low-interest loans.