No doubt, the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) set back the Philippines’ tourism economic development even as the industry played a central role in the years leading to 2020, with an increasing emphasis on sustainability and responsibility that underscores the sector’s importance in the years to come.
As restrictions grounded global travel to curb the spread of the deadly respiratory disease, it also almost brought the tourism sector to a halt – no visitors to expect, no chance of getting income.
Outdoor activities were reduced to a mere memory – surfing the beaches became surfing the internet while landscape sightseeing turned into travel photo reminiscing.
However, a silver lining is already in play as the government pursues its vaccination program – one of the few feasible solutions to reopen the economy and, at the forefront, the tourism sector.
Tourism is adjusting to the new normal with the Department of Tourism (DoT) now setting its sights on domestic tourism over international tourism amid the ongoing pandemic.
Rediscovering the country’s great outdoors is the way to go and, according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, it is one way to put Philippine destinations back on the map – thus, local government units (LGU) are urged to employ the necessary means to ensure that the sector can bounce back from the effects of the pandemic.
In an earlier statement, Puyat said the Tourism department registered more domestic tourists with 110 million in the past year as compared to the international tourists with just 8.2 million.
“We focus first on domestic tourism right now in order for the industry to bounce back,” said Puyat.
The DoT secretary is also encouraging island destinations to conduct their own vaccination to boost the immunization program among tourists and she is confident that as more and more people are vaccinated, it will pave the way for the reopening of international tourism.
There’s no better way to kickstart the tourism sector by ensuring that locals can travel the country again, as there are a significant number of beautiful, dazzling, and stunning travel destinations in the Philippines. This, of course, is hinged on an effective pandemic response from all LGU.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic had a negative effect on the sector and the economy as a whole in 2020, policymakers and stakeholders have adapted the sector’s offerings and are prioritizing domestic tourism to support the national recovery.
Enhanced health and safety measures have been implemented to align hotels, tourism sites, and other services with the demands of the new normal and, more importantly, a shift towards digitalization and the use of technology to upskill the workforce are readying the sector for the future.
Covid-19 was an understandable setback for the tourism sector.
But it doesn’t mean that we can’t bounce back from the predicament, as all we have to do now is to rediscover the country’s “Great Outdoors.”