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Tourism in captivity

With the continuing increase of COVID-19-infected persons and its soaring mortality rate, self-proclaimed soothsayers are quick to say that we have reached the end times. Struggling to view this crisis through rose-colored glasses, I would prefer to look at it as a wake-up call for us to realize how ill-prepared the world is to handle a pandemic. 

The tourism industry, here and abroad, is in a state of suspended animation—we know we have to do something, and we are doing something, but we also know it will not produce the desired results because the world is at a standstill. 

WAITING GAME. As the Philippine tourism industry takes a hit from the COVID-19 crisis, stakeholders work together to find ways to help mitigate the severe impact of the pandemic.
No amount of Harry Potter wizardry can produce the business that we, stakeholders, need very badly. Unless this virus scare blows over, we feel like we are captives in a borderless prison, feeling frustrated over being useless. 

However, we just cannot let this menace rule over us. So those of us heads of tourism organizations sat down to discuss thoroughly the pressing issues of the day. We also brought up several suggestions to help mitigate the severe impact of this worldwide virus scare. 

Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr. 
Thanks to our dear colleague, Bobby Joseph, chairman of the Network of Independent Travel Agencies (NITAS), we got together at the Elk’s Club to come up with a position paper which we submitted to Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr., who assured us of a swift response to our petitions. 

Since nothing can be done about the absence of business, domestic and foreign, I find it best to use this “break” to further strengthen the integrity of our local tourism industry. I have no doubt that once things return to normal, the erstwhile surge of our industry will continue, resulting in healthy figures for all stakeholders. 

Tourism org heads strategize over lunch: (standing, from left) Ritchie Tuaño (PTAA), the author (PATA), Cecil Contang (NAITAS), Racquel Sabucaldo (NAITAS), (seated, from left) Mellie Lotho (ASTA), Reena Lagdameo (WIT), Angel Ramos Bognot (NITAS), Thaemar Achacoso (NAITAS), and Maria Paz Alberto (PIATA).
In anticipation, my suggestion is for the Department of Tourism to offer free updates and training seminars involving all aspects of our industry. Topics like Tourism Laws, Tourism Financial Management, Sales and Marketing, Ticketing and Reservations, Tour Guiding, etc. will definitely be beneficial for the staff of our tourism establishments. These seminars will further give us the competitive edge over our counterparts in the neighboring countries and will ensure the delivery of world-class service to our foreign and domestic guests. 

In the event that the DOT does not have enough trainers, I volunteered the services of our members (Pacific Asia Travel Association) who have already expressed their willingness to conduct such seminars. 

Nature recharges while the world is at a standstill.
Towards completely eradicating the scare factor, the DOT should find a way to communicate effectively the procedures we have in place in fighting off the effects of this virus. The other day, I received a press release that said: “Malaysian Hotels and Resorts Compliant with Anti-COVID-19 Medical Standards.” Something like this can easily put potential travelers at ease because they know they will be safe in the country. 

The nice thing about all this chaos is that government agencies are showing their true values, as they fully cooperate with various sectors in need. The Department of Labor and Employment came out with the good news yesterday that they have allocated a budget for financial assistance to be given to displaced or underemployed workers. 

Paradise awaits after the pandemic.
All the tourism establishment has to do is to submit a list of these workers to the DOLE office where they belong which, in turn, will authorize Landbank to release the amount to the concerned establishment. Even workers who are still on probation may avail of this financial assistance. 

I guess when we are committed to continue working for the success of our tourism industry, nothing can actually hold us captive because our minds continue to fly high and come up with bright ideas and strategies that will make us overcome any challenge we are faced with.

For feedback, I’m at [email protected]

Topics: COVID-19 , pandemic , Department of Labor and Employment , Network of Independent Travel Agencies
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