1.1-M visitors show travel sector rebound

The local tourism industry which was among the sectors that suffered the most during the pandemic era is on the path to a strong recovery.

Foreign tourists have reached more than 1 million for the first seven months, proving that tourism arrivals have been perking up since the government eased cross-border restrictions in February.

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco during the Go Explore Cebu: A Tourism Summit organized by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said since the country’s reopening of borders to international leisure travelers starting 10 February up until 7 August, the Department of Transportation (DoT) has recorded 1.1 million foreign arrivals.

With this, Frasco aired optimism that the industry will have a resurgence under the vision set forth by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of strengthening the tourism industry through institutional reforms that would spread development across the country.

She also shared DoT projections that the Philippine tourism industry, which used to account for more than 12 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product before the pandemic, will recoup its losses and revert to the pre-pandemic level in the next three years.

Moving on

Go Negosyo chairperson Joey Concepcion has been advocating for the continued opening of the economy and ramping up vaccination as the Covid-19 virus will be here to stay.

He said although cases continue to pile up, the cases are not severe and do not overwhelm hospitals, unlike in 2020 when there were no vaccines available.

Concepcion last April pushed for the redefinition of the fully-vaccinated status, and in June, he called for vaccine manufacturers to apply for a Certificate of Product Registration (CPR).

The CPR scheme will ensure a continuous supply of vaccines for the country before the State of Public Health Emergency ends on 12 September, unless it is extended by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“We already achieved so much in reopening the economy. While most cases today may not be as serious, we cannot be complacent and lose our momentum at a time when the global economy is facing serious challenges with rising prices and interest rates. We must reinforce our wall of immunity without interruption to our economic recovery,” he said

Also, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president George Barcelon maintained the country cannot afford another lockdown and that the economy should continue with the virus now being treated as the simple flu just like in other countries.

“Other ASEAN nations are treating Covid-19 in the same category as seasonal flu and opening up the economy, education and social life. Only some individuals here kept on harping on the pharma narratives instilling unnecessary fear,” Barcelon said.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) relaxed its Covid-19 guidelines, dropping the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person, and people no longer need to stay at least six feet away from others.

While in Thailand, the Ministry of Public Health said they will downgrade Covid-19 from a “dangerous” communicable disease to one that “needs monitoring” starting from October, as the country’s virus situation has started to stabilize.

Tourism reforms

Meanwhile, to redeem the glory of the tourism industry, Frasco has been pushing for reforms and programs in her tenure, namely the improvement of tourism infrastructure and accessibility; cohesive and comprehensive digitalization and connectivity; enhancement of overall tourist experience; equalization of tourism product development and promotion; diversification of portfolio through multidimensional tourism; maximization of domestic tourism; and strengthening tourism governance through collaboration with local government units and stakeholders.

“Consequently, we will provide a convenient and better tourism experience for both foreign and domestic travelers through standardized travel protocols. The DoT has reached out to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Quarantine, to ensure that entry protocols and requirements are streamlined, and updates are easily available to tourists,” Frasco said.

The quality of tourist destinations and product offerings will be ensured by meeting international standards through rigorous establishment accreditation and product audits.

“Currently, our Office for Standards Regulation is reviewing our accreditation requirements to address gaps and incorporate emerging tourism standards that cater to the needs of modern travelers,” the tourism chief added.

DoT’s ongoing development of new regional tourism circuits is those that will highlight nature-based tourism, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, food and gastronomy, heritage and culture, farm and agri-tourism, health and wellness and arts, among others.

“All these tourism dimensions will get an equal promotion, attention, and support as we expand ourselves from the traditional portfolio and explore multidimensional tourism,” said the tourism chief.

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