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Foreign tourist arrivals down 73% as of July

Foreign tourist arrivals in the first seven months of this year reached only 1.3 million a steep 73 percent decline from 4.64 million in the same period last year as the Philippines closed its borders staring mid-March to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to Tourism Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon, Jr.

As a result, the tourist receipts hit only P81 billion or 72 percent lower than the P289.28 billion generated during the same first seven months last year.

 Bengzon, however, noted of silver lining coming from domestic tourism. The Department of Tourism has expressed optimism that domestic travel can help accelerate recovery of this sector.

The DOT reported that there were 109 million domestic travels last year, a big boost to local tourism sector. Of the 12.7 percent overall tourism contribution to GDP, 10.8 percent comes from domestic tourism.  

“I am confident as we open, local tourists can stimulate demand,” said Bengzon.

Initially, the DOT is looking at smaller and high value tourism, bespoke or customized arrangements, point to point destinations, apart from developing travel bubbles.

“We promote integrated tourism programs and we want to bring business back to hotels, resorts,” he added.

While investments in tourism are challenged, Bengzon said people are now talking of new type of tourism like more outdoors such as farm tourism and other low contact travel.

A DOT survey on Philippine travel sentiments, 77 percent are willing to travel even without a vaccine.

“This is a good sign, the appetite to travel is still there, but we make sure necessary protocols are place in tourism value chain accommodation, transportation and restaurants,” he said.

Domestic tourism maybe opened under a modified general community quarantine. Foreign tourists are still not allowed except for spouses of foreigners in the country and children of Filipino nationals, diplomats, and members of international accredited organizations and airline crew.  Leisure tourism is not yet allowed.

The DOT stakeholders survey, with a thousand respondents, also showed that 82 percent said their jobs affected one way or another lost jobs or some went on leave without pay as tourism establishments shutdown their operation.

Bengzon hopes the industry to get financial assistance from the economic stimulus package being pushed in Congress. Earlier, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the economic stimulus packages under Bayanihan 2 and ARISE could provide P10 billion to support DOT projects and P68 billion for soft loans for tourism establishments.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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