Amid the COVID-19 scare that has caused a huge number of tourist cancellations across the country, a congressman from the Visayas region on Saturday encouraged Filipinos to schedule early summer outings and vacations to boost domestic tourism.
At the same time, Samar Rep. Edgar Sarmiento, chairman of the House committee on transportation, advised local governments to stop issuing total lockdowns on hotels, resorts, and other tourism destinations.
“There is no reason to issue these lockdown orders because the country remains very safe from the dreaded Covid-19 virus,” Sarmiento said.
“Filipinos should schedule early summer vacation rather than traveling abroad to support local tourism. Rest assured our local airports follow international protocol to prevent transmission,” he added.
Philippine airports have lost about 20 percent or 322,000 international and domestic passengers in three weeks since January due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Manila International Airport Authority said.
After the government imposed a travel ban to China, Hong Kong, and Macau in a bid to contain the virus, the international tourist arrivals from Jan. 25 to Feb. 17 decreased by 16.74 percent or 272,006 from the figures recorded during the same period in 2019.
The Philippines posted 1,352,692 international arrivals from Jan. 25 until Feb. 17, slightly lower than the 1,624,698 last year.
Meanwhile, domestic travel fell by 3.42 percent, as the country recorded 1,406,876 arrivals this year, down from 1,456,705 in 2019.
MIAA general manager Eddie Monreal said the losses will be bigger if the Philippines did not lift the travel ban on Taiwan on Feb. 11.
“There’s still time to recover and I hope we will recover soon,” Monreal said.
Cebu Pacific has already reduced its year-round low fares across over 70 domestic destinations in support of government initiatives to spur domestic tourism to alleviate the impact of travel restrictions caused by the spread of the new coronavirus.
Year-round low fares of Cebu Pacific will sell for as low as P88 (base fare)—even for travel within the next few days. Routes with reduced fares include those originating from Manila, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro (Laguindingan), Davao, Iloilo, and Zamboanga.