FILIPINOS are sticking closer to home, when traveling, out of convenience and cost considerations.
Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon Jr., spokesman for the Department of Tourism (DOT), citing a recent travel survey said, Filipinos are doing so, “first, because of cost considerations. You have lower costs if you just ride a car, your family is with you, you’ll drive two hours/three hours from Metro Manila.” He was speaking at a recent virtual presser on “Recharge Philippines” with the Task Group on Economic Recovery, hosted by Malacañang’s communications group.
Another reason is, “depending on the destination, maybe these don’t have RT-PCR test requirements, unlike the other destinations that have reopened, there are such requirements. So basically it’s out of convenience, and cost considerations. Once their confidence returns, and we’re seeing it now in many of our destinations, they will travel farther and farther,” he said in Filipino.
In that survey recently presented by the DOT, Asian Institute of Management, and Guide to the Philippines, only 809 or 11 percent of the 7,234 survey respondents had traveled. (See, “Pinoys continue to shun leisure travel,” in the BusinessMirror, February 18, 2020.)
More applying for subsidized tests
The high cost of RT-PCR tests to determine if a person has Covid-19 has been cited by tourism stakeholders as behind the slow growth in domestic tourism in the country. So the DOT, and its marketing arm, the Tourism Promotions Board, started offering subsidized tests at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila and Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City. With the subsidized tests, tourists need only pay P900 at PGH, or P750 at the PCMC—just 50 percent of the actual cost of said tests.
As of February 17, Bengzon said, 8,883 domestic travelers have been approved for subsidized tests at PGH, and 10,395 at the PCMC.
The DOT has pinned its hopes on domestic travelers to push the tourism sector’s recovery. In 2019, 110 million domestic tourists contributed P3.1 trillion to the economy, higher than the 8 billion foreign tourists, who contributed P482 billion. “As you can see, domestic tourism has been able to generate six times more in terms of revenue,” said Bengzon. “That’s why it’s important for all of us to help out and patronize these tourism establishments in the destinations that are opening, or those places being visited by [Tourism] Secretary [Bernadette Romulo] Puyat.”
Among the destinations now open for leisure travel are Boracay, Bohol, El Nido, Coron, Siargao, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.
Tighter controls to prevent fake test results
On the issue of fake Covid test results, Bengzon said, “We’re tightening our coordination with local government units, all the critical touch points from riding the airplane, arriving at the destination, checking-in the hotels—we’re looking at ensuring all comply with the health and safety requirements, including this negative test result…. Again, the successful restart of tourism will really depend on everyone’s cooperation. So we appeal to all to stop faking test results.”
The bulk of the fake test results have been found on tourists going to Boracay, while two were recently arrested in El Nido for tampering the dates on their test results.
Bengzon added the DOT is also supporting the proposed vaccine passport, “but the success of the program will depend on the number of things,” such as the extent of the vaccination program, “and the willingness of the host destination to recognize such vaccine passport.”
Denmark recently announced it would roll out a digital passport showing the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19, while Middle Eastern carriers said they are adopting the digital travel pass developed by the International Air Transport Association that will provide airlines documents that a passenger has been Covid-vaccinated.