Overseas Travel Is Unlikely To Happen This Year
International travel may have to be on hold until next year according to the Department of Tourism (DOT).
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said during a virtual hearing of the House committee on tourism on Tuesday:
International travel might not happen this year. At this point in time, traveling (abroad) is but a dream.
The Tourism Secretary disclosed their new policy for a “new normal” in the tourism industry. The new normal policy will be implemented until a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) becomes available.
The following measures will be mandatory as a part of the new normal:
- Regular sanitation or disinfection of hotels and accommodation facilities, tourism transport services, and tourism-related establishments such as meeting and exhibit venues, restaurants, and spas.
- Inspection of tourism establishments would be conducted regularly.
- Sanitation and disinfecting devices, including personal protective equipment, will be provided for tourism workers.
- The DOT would pursue the development of online systems that can facilitate tourism-related transactions digitally such as applications for accreditation, training and modules, and retail.
- Hotels are advised to establish systems for contactless check-in, where guests can simply get their keycards and proceed straight to their rooms.
- Hotels may have to do away with breakfast buffets that require guests to use the same serving spoons to get food. Hotels will instead provide bento boxes, expand their kitchens, and institute better spacing of tables to allow proper social distancing.
- Limit the capacity of tourism transportation, restaurants and tourist spots such as parks, museums and meeting/convention facilities.
On top of these safety regulatory policies for the new normal, the DOT has implemented the Tourism Response and Recovery Program during the initial stages of the pandemic to help tourism-related businesses and their workforce get back on their feet. The agency also implemented a moratorium on the collection of accreditation fees from new and renewing applicants from tourism enterprises (TEs) and tourism-related enterprises (TREs) for the year 2020. Participation fees in international fairs and exhibitions set between now and the end of 2021 were also waived by the DOT and the Tourism Promotions.
The DOT will also get at least ₱43 billion from the proposed Philippine Economic Stimulus Act of 2020 to provide relief to the affected businesses in the tourism industry. In their hearing, it was noted that the DOT officials are planning to use ₱36 billion to extend soft loans to tourism enterprises, ₱4 billion for projects of the Philippine Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, ₱500 million each for domestic and international tourism promotion and capacity building for industry stakeholders training, and ₱1.5 billion for tourism crisis response by supporting private sector activities.
The year-on-year revenue of the tourism sector dropped by 40 percent in the first quarter to ₱79.8 billion from ₱134.3 billion last year, according to Puyat. From January to March earlier this year, there were only 1.3 million tourist arrivals compared to the 2.2 million in the same period last year (2019).