DOT eyes more ‘bubbles’ to boost domestic tourism

By: Nestor Burgos Jr. - Philippine Daily Inquirer | April 24,2021 - 09:12 AM

The setting up of more tourism “bubbles” is being considered as among the key strategies to revive the country’s tourism industry amid the continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benito Bengzon Jr., undersecretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT), said the tourism bubble that started in Baguio City and neighboring provinces was successful as it encouraged the movement of domestic tourists.

Travel bubbles, also called corridors, are exclusive agreements between or among areas that have a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases allowing travel by easing restrictions to boost domestic tourism.

Bengzon noted that tourism bubbles were also set up between Metro Manila and El Nido in Palawan province and Metro Manila and Boracay island in Aklan province.

“Eventually, the idea is to expand internationally,” Bengzon said at the Inquirer Project Rebound’s online forum on Thursday, billed “Tourism Revival: What Has Worked, What’s Next.”

‘Short-haul markets’

Bengzon said similar tourism bubbles were being considered for “short-haul markets,” particularly with Japan and South Korea, when travel restrictions are eased further.

“They have expressed a lot of interest in doing bubbles in Boracay, Cebu and Bohol,” he said.

He said these Visayas tourist destinations already catered to many chartered groups before the pandemic.

“The brand recognition is there and it will be easy enough to develop such bubbles when the restrictions are lifted,” Bengzon said.

Forum participant Rodrigo Franco, president and chief executive officer of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., cited the “huge” potential of domestic tourism.

Due to the pandemic, “there is so much suppressed demand,” Franco said as he cited the need to address health and safety concerns to be able to better maximize opportunities in tourism.

In a video message, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said the DOT continues to conduct capacity-building programs for tourism stakeholders “to prepare and update them for business in the new normal.”

Puyat said these include webinars on the basis of e-commerce, use of digital tools, improving housekeeping and sanitation, and virtual tour guides.

Shifting behavior

“As long as there are restrictions on international travel, the recovery of the Philippine tourism industry will be anchored on domestic tourism,” Puyat said as she emphasized how this thrust can be better promoted by those programs she mentioned.

Bengzon said a DOT survey conducted in December last year among 7,000 respondents showed that many Filipinos are still willing to set aside a travel budget “to keep their sanity.” INQ

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TAGS: Bubbles, COVID-19, domestic tourism, DOT

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