Things have suddenly turned bleak in the tourism sector after the Philippines reported record foreign arrivals in 2019.
The coronavirus outbreak has caused several trip cancellations across Asia, especially those coming from China. Regional airlines have reduced their flights on orders of their host government, while hotels and tourist destinations are experiencing a business slump.
The tourism industry in the Philippines will certainly take a hit after foreign visitor arrivals just climbed 15.2 percent in 2019 to a record 8.26 million from 7.16 million in 2018. The Philippines has been successful in drawing tourists from Korea China, Japan and Taiwan, but travel restrictions in these countries will slow down the influx of visitors and lead to lost income opportunities.
Korea was the top foreign market with 1.98 million arrivals in 2019, up 22.5 percent from 2018. China ranked second with arrivals surging 38.6 percent last year to 1.74 million. The number of Japanese tourists, ranked fourth, rose 8.1 percent to 682,788, while Taiwanese arrivals grew 35 percent to 327,273. Korea, Japan and Taiwan have reported several persons infected with the coronavirus. The infection has resulted in strict quarantine measures, which will ultimately affect the travel plans of their citizens.
The Philippines, meanwhile, has lost about 20 percent or 322,000 international and domestic passengers in three weeks since January due to the COVID-19 outbreak. After the government imposed a travel ban to China, Hong Kong and Macau in a bid to contain the virus, international tourist arrivals from Jan. 25 to Feb. 17 decreased by 16.7 percent or 272,006 from the the same period in 2019. The Philippines posted 1,352,692 foreign arrivals from Jan. 25 to Feb. 17, slightly lower than 1,624,698 last year.
Local airlines, hotels and tourism destinations clearly must reduce their prices and offer cheap packages to win back tourists. They owe it to the marginal stakeholders in the industry, especially those earning less like hotel employees, market vendors, tourist guides and agents, and transport operators.
Foreign tourists, too, will appreciate the gesture. Cheaper fares and hotel rates are investments in the future that will reap dividends to the tourism sector.