Tourism Recovery is Good for Everybody
Current efforts to revive the travel industry are uplifting—both to those who lost their jobs in the hotel and resort sector and to the communities that host popular tourism destinations.
The tourism sector without a doubt is one of the most affected industries during the pandemic. Its contribution to the Philippine economy significantly dropped because of the mobility restrictions that hampered both local and global travel.
Tourism’s multiplier effect is nearly unquantifiable. It brings in foreign exchange revenues from tourists that shore up our international reserves, directly creates jobs through employment in hotels, resorts and restaurants, and encourages growth in other areas such as land, air and sea transportation.
Lifting the travel restrictions between the “NCR Plus” bubble and the rest of the country, for a start, will enable the economy to recover faster, as tourism plays a significant role in dispersing wealth across the country.
Economic and tourism activities should be allowed to flourish within the well-established health protocols, without endangering communities and workplaces. This is possible through massive vaccination, testing and social distancing measures that may be needed until 2022 or 2023, depending on how fast we can achieve herd immunity.
I am positive that the government through the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will extend leisure travel between the NCR Plus bubble and modified general community quarantine areas beyond June 15, 2021. I believe domestic travelers will be responsible enough to protect themselves and their families as they visit provincial destinations. Local government units must do their role to prevent overcrowding in tourism spots.
Easing such travel restrictions makes sense, as the NCR Plus bubble accounts for more than half of the country’s gross domestic product.
The National Capital Region in 2020 had the largest share of the gross domestic product at 32.3 percent, followed by Calabarzon with 14.3 percent and Central Luzon with 10.4 percent. These three regions accounted for over 57 percent of our GDP.
The NCR Plus bubble that covers Metro Manila and the four neighboring provinces of Cavite, Rizal, Laguna and Bulacan have the highest concentration of the country’s wealth. Thus, blocking the mobility between the NCR Plus bubble and the rest of the country would surely impede economic recovery. The challenge is to ease the restrictions while ensuring that everyone follows the government-mandated health protocols.
The lost contribution of the tourism industry to the total economy was widely felt last year. The World Travel & Tourism Council noted in its annual Economic Impact Report that the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out $37 billion or 41.4 percent of the annual contribution of travel and tourism to the Philippine economy in 2020.
The WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, says that travel and tourism’s impact on the nation’s gross domestic product “fell from an incredible $90 billion [22.5 percent] in 2019 to $52.8 billion [14.6 percent] just 12 months later, in 2020.” The travel restrictions, it adds, resulted in the loss of 2 million tourism jobs across the country from over 9.5 million in 2019 to less than 7.6 million in 2020, or a drop of 21.1 percent.
The easing of travel restrictions between the NCR Plus bubble and modified general community quarantine areas is the first step towards reviving tourism in the Philippines. We can aim for more easing of restrictive rules, as what the Department of Tourism has started last week.
I agree with the initiative of the Department of Tourism to immediately vaccinate 40,000 tourism workers in the island of Boracay and some 70,000 in Bohol to encourage travel among Filipinos. It is also time to draw up a Covid-19 travel pass, similar to the so-called Green Lane being proposed by the Tourism Department, for faster and easier facilitation of travel, especially for an entire family. The green lane or travel pass can also speed up the entry of foreign visitors who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as part of efforts to reopen the economy.
The Covid-19 travel pass that indicates vaccination or a negative virus test, similar to the one being drawn up in Europe, will complement our bid to reopen tourist destinations to leisure travelers. It is also a step closer to restoring jobs and livelihoods lost during the pandemic.