Cover Photography by Francisco Guerrero (La Paz Sand Dunes)

Tourism is one of the most hard-hit industries by COVID-19’s impact; the Department of Tourism through the Tourism Promotions Board presents a plan which may help the industry, and the nation, recover

Given the natural beauty of the Philippines and the innate diversity of its points of interest in terms of aesthetic, ecological and historical value, the tourism sector has always been one of the strongest contributors to both social and economic progress. In years past, tourism contributed 12.7 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employed 13.5 per cent of its total workforce, accounting for 5.71 million jobs in total.

However, with travel bans being imposed across the globe and localised quarantines being implemented in the strictest fashion by regional and local governments, Philippine tourism is one of the industries devastated by Covid-19. This has been quite a blow to the nation, but given how medical caseloads are beginning to go down, Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat of the Department of Tourism (DOT) is optimistic about gradually reopening the country to both domestic and foreign tourists. As this article goes to press, several major local destinations have already reopened for local visitors, albeit under strict protocols for their health and safety.

The current roster includes Boracay, Baguio, the Ilocos and Pangasinan region, Bohol and El Nido in Palawan. It is the DOT’s hope that, over the next several weeks, other provincial destinations will follow suit. “We are counting on domestic tourism to revive the economy and bring back jobs and livelihoods in the meantime,” Puyat says of this staggered approach to reopening the country to travellers. “[It] is the backbone of our industry, comprising 10.8 per cent of [what the industry] contributes to the GDP. It will take time, but we hope [that currently open destinations] will lead the way for other local government units to develop a travel scheme that doesn’t sacrifice the health and safety of their constituents.”


The plan outlined by the DOT regarding the reopening process is centred on two key aspects: business continuity with economic recovery in mind and taking care of the people who make up the tourism sector. As such, it is geared towards four key accomplishment points: Secured livelihood and adequate social service which not only involves protection and capacity-building for tourism professionals, but also the provision of adequate assistance to travellers affected by Covid-19 Travelling into a New Tomorrow Tatler Traveller 54 as well as the dissemination of vital information preventing the spread of the virus; Sustained business operations by extending financial support to enable tourism-related businesses to stay operational. Likewise, this also calls for policy support for financial and corporate solvency and to encourage corporations and individuals to invest in the tourism sector; Appropriate infrastructure and policy to develop quality standards and protocols relevant to the New Normal; and, Enhanced marketing and product development through the creation of Tourism Bubbles and Green Corridors to help kick-start local tourism, create products which will be useful in the New Normal and create promotional campaigns reflecting the profound changes in the industry.


For the time being, much of the travel expected in the remainder of 2020 will remain domestic. But the DOT is already set to promote numerous local destinations in the coming year. On top of these preparations, another thing that has boosted optimism for the return of Philippine tourism is the fact that the country came away with five awards at the recently concluded 27th World Travel Awards. The award-giving body cited the Walled City of Intramuros as Asia’s leading tourist attraction while hailing the Philippines as Asia’s leading beach destination and Asia’s leading dive destination.

The DOT was also awarded the leading tourist board in Asia. Reopened destinations, nevertheless, continue to be vigilant to prevent the possibility of contagion within their borders. Health checks are scrupulously performed on all visitors seeking to enter and local governments are ensuring that protocols such as the wearing of masks and personal sanitation measures are constantly followed. Small steps, certainly, but instrumental to reviving Philippine tourism. In fact, in September of this year, the Philippines became the 100th destination to receive the World Travel and Tourism Council Safe Travels Stamp, proof to travellers that the country has adopted and implemented internationally-recognised protocols for health and hygiene. Apart from improving the economy, however, Secretary Puyat also hopes that reopening local destinations will give Filipinos a better appreciation for their homeland. “We hope that [these provincial openings] will soon make way for greater inter-regional travel”, she says, “and that visitors from all over the Philippines will have the opportunity to visit one of the World’s Best Islands right in their own backyard.”

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