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Tourism industry pegs P25B loss due to COVID-19

By: Rosalie O. Abatayo May 21,2020 - 01:14 PM

The diverse offerings that Cebu has for tourists like canyoneering in its southern Cebu hills and rivers, and its white-sand beaches are among the factors that make Cebu a top tourism destination. | CDN Digital FILE PHOTO

CEBU CITY, Philippines — With most destinations and tourism activities closed and low occupancy reported in hotels since the coronavirus outbreak, the tourism industry in the region has pegged its “foregone revenue” to be at P25 billion for the first half of 2020.

Of over 10,600 hotel rooms of 143 hotels in Central Visayas, 6,286 remains unoccupied due to the absence of arrivals, both local and foreign, and the suspension of activities due to the pandemic.

Most of the occupied rooms were those commissioned by Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Telecommunication companies to house their employees, the isolation facilities for the repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and those occupied by health workers.

READ: Employment lay off possible as tourism industry in Cebu suffers due to coronavirus scare

With diverse tourism adventure offerings in the region, particularly Cebu, the tourism industry is considered as the bread and butter of the economy here.

Based on the records of the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7), the tourism sector, in 2019, contributed at least P97 billion to the country’s economy with the arrival of over 5.1 million domestic and 4.3 million international tourists.

The amount does not yet account for proceeds from foreign students engaged in English classes here, where Cebu is considered as a hub for English as Second Language (ESL) learners, and the profit from Airbnb.

Prior to the pandemic, the Mactan Cebu International Airport had 26 operating flights for international destinations, mostly in the Asia-Pacific region. A direct flight to Los Angeles in the United States was also about to start before the outbreak.

DOT-7 Regional Director Shalimar Tamano, in a virtual press conference, said their agency is “reinventing” the ways of the tourism industry to bring it back on its feet.

At present, the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA) that seeks for P1 trillion of stimulus fund for government agencies’ response to COVID-19 has been filed in Congress.

Of the amount, P71 billion is being requested by the DOT. Tamano said that considering the amount of the economic contribution of the region in terms of tourism, a bigger chunk of the amount may be allocated here.

“It will depend on the number of our establishments and the size of the industry. We can say that a huge portion would be in Cebu because of the huge contribution of Cebu to the national government,” Tamano said.

Tamano said the local tourism offices will be the one tasked to identify those who may benefit from the projects of the DOT out of the stimulus fund.

According to Tamano, the initial plans in reviving the industry will first focus on domestic tourism.

READ: Gwen says ‘enough’ with the suffering from COVID-19

“Sa karon, the common agreement is we focus first on domestic tourism unya later on siguro on nation travel corridors, buot pasabot duha ka nasud ang magsabot kay di man pwede nga ‘sana all, open for all’ kay naa may mga lugar nga naigo gyud,” Tamano said.

(For now, the common agreement is we focus first on domestic tourism and later on maybe on nation travel corridors, meaning two nations will have an agreement because it can’t be “sana all, open for all” because there are some places that was hit badly.)

“Right now we cannot insist that we open up. Even if we open up, will they visit us?” the tourism chief added.

Tamano said the country first needs to establish the confidence of the international community on the protocols and measures that it is taking, with the help of other government agencies and sectors, before the industry can bounce back.

“The faster we address this safety issue, the faster for the economy (to recover),” Tamano added. /bmjo

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