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Tourism stakeholders need to adjust to new normal to bring back tourists

By: Irene R. Sino Cruz - CDN Digital Correspondent | May 06,2020 - 10:16 PM

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Tourism stakeholders need to make adjustments to the new normal if they intend to bring back tourists to Cebu.

During the webinar ‘Cebu Tourism Reboot,’ five tourism executives discussed what measures need to be implemented to enable the tourism sector to recover from the adverse impact of the coronavirus.

Alfred Reyes, vice president of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC), explained that 36 of HRRAC member-hotels and resorts have experience in implementing protocols for the coronavirus 2019 outbreak. These properties have practiced social distancing and have put in place other measures such as checking the temperature of guests and staff; wearing of gloves, face shields, and masks.

These properties have been used to house business process outsourcing (BPOs) employees and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) under a 14-day quarantine, Reyes said. However, these have been operating on skeletal staff and charging rates just enough to sustain operations, he added.

While the pandemic could result in bankruptcies and acquisitions, Reyes still felt confident the tourism sector will eventually recover.

Ravishankar Saravu, chief commercial advisor of GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC), expressed optimism that Cebu’s tourism sector will bounce back.

Saravu noted that Cebu’s top tourist market such as Korea, China, and Japan have started to recover from the pandemic. Also, travelers would prefer shorter hauls or trips so the change in their preference would benefit the Philippines as far as its neighboring countries are concerned.

These three countries represent between 60 to 70 percent of Cebu’s international tourists, he pointed out

Saravu also explained that GMCAC has started talking with the airport’s various stakeholders to determine what measures should be undertaken to get ready for the arrival of tourists.

Since social distancing will be observed, he said, they will have to make some adjustments such as putting up Plexiglas sheet at the counters and urging airlines to encourage passengers to use online check-in to limit contact with the ground crew.

On the other hand, Alice Queblatin, president of Cebu Alliance of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos), said they have to discuss the behavioral changes in the tourism industry.

For example, Queblatin said, the Koreans would rather go to open destinations, which would now give an opportunity for farm tourism and mountain destinations as well as adventure tours.

She added that those engaged in tourist bus and vans businesses have to agree to common sanitation standards and properly communicate this to assure tourists and make them feel safe.

On the other hand, outbound tourists would stay away from crowded areas and would rather go to more open spaces, said Marget Villarica, president and general manager of Destinations Specialists, which cater to outbound tourists.

Meanwhile, Saravu said he expected that the sector’s recovery would start in the domestic market, with international tourists returning later.

They all agreed that the return of tourists would also depend on the government’s policy in terms of travel restrictions./rcg

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