The Philippine tourism sector will have to work together with government to cushion the impact of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) on foreign tourist arrivals given travel restrictions adopted in China, one of the country’s biggest foreign markets.

This according to House Tourism Committee Chairperson and Laguna 3rd District Rep. Sol Aragones, who on Tuesday said that the Committee would be working with the House Committee on Economic Affairs and their counterparts in the Executive Department to comprehensively assess the potential effects of ongoing travel restrictions on foreign tourist arrivals.

“A sure way to mitigate the economic impact of this virus, particularly to the tourism industry, is to contain it.”

“The Department of Tourism (DOT) initially expected us to bring in 9.2 million foreign visitors this year, with a revenue target of 661 billion pesos from inbound tourism,” said Aragones. 

“Given all the travel restrictions resulting from the spread of the 2019 nCov, we may have to revisit these numbers, especially since  more than a fifth of the foreign tourists who visited us last year were from China,” added the lawmaker.

Statistics from the DOT showed that between January and November 2019, 22% of the country’s 7.4 million foreign tourists, or 1.63 million, were Chinese.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently ordered a ban on all foreign nationals coming to the Philippines directly from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Local airlines have likewise suspended flights to the said areas.

“We may need to work overtime to make up the difference.”

According to Aragones, government and tourism stakeholders “need to strategize on a prudent way moving forward––one that allows us sustain livelihoods while protecting lives.”

“We have to keep in mind that the tourism industry, per PSA data, employs 5.4 million Filipinos. A broad swath of industries could be affected by the travel restrictions that will be imposed by various governments in response to this outbreak, and we have to be prepared for that,” the legislator stressed. 

Aragones said that limitations on foreign travel may require the tourism sector to focus more on promoting domestic tourism in order to offset possible slowdowns in foreign arrivals. 

“The tourism revenue target for 2020, overall, is 4.45 trillion pesos, with domestic tourism receipts expected to reach 3.79 trillion pesos. We may need to work overtime to make up the difference as foreign governments take additional precautions to prevent the spread of 2019 nCov.”

The solon emphasized that whatever measures to be adopted by the tourism sector moving forward “must always factor in public health considerations,” and urged the Department of Health and the whole country to continue efforts to promote the behaviors and practices necessary to stop the virus in its tracks. 

“A sure way to mitigate the economic impact of this virus, particularly to the tourism industry, is to contain it and to ensure that it does not spread. The sooner we can do this, the sooner everyone will be able to safely travel, here and abroad.”


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