Too early to determine Covid-19 impact on tourism

Department of Tourism-6 Director Helen Catalbas (PIA photo

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

Department of Tourism (DoT) in Western Visayas Regional Director Atty. Helen J. Catalbas said it is too early to account the impact of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak to the tourism industry in the region, particularly in Boracay Island.

“It is too early to say the effects of Covid-19 in the tourism industry in statistical data. It is just sad that what used to be our asset during good times – our six airports – are now facilities that may cause so much health risk in the region,” Catabas said.

Despite this, Catalbas said Western Visayas cannot afford to lose from the impact of the virus as the region is poised to become the leading tourism industry in the country.

With the 8 million people in the region, Catalbas said she is hoping that the domestic market can compensate the losses of the foreign tourists through intra-regional tourism.

“If we rally behind us, all this 8 million or even just its 20 percent will visit the tourist attractions in the region at discounted rates I am sure they can enjoy the region on their own and help businesses to not close down,” she said.

The DoT will meet with the tourism stakeholders in the region starting with Boracay especially with those establishments that experienced massive cancellations.

Catalbas said she will offer the marketing facilities of DoT 6 and urge the establishments to offer discounted room rates.

“We are looking at meeting with the stakeholders I go there, talk to establishments with massive cancellations and offer to them the marketing facilities of DOT-6 by having them agree on room rate sales because discounted room rates are better than empty rooms that may result to loss of employment, loss of livelihood, to hundreds of thousands of the region dependent on tourism,” she said.

As travels bans and restrictions due to Covid-19 continue to hurt the world-famous Boracay Island, the DoT and local government unit are banking on the domestic market and intra-regional tourism to save the business establishments, hotels, and resorts from closing.

Boracay Island is now feeling the impact of the novel coronavirus with massive cancelations of foreign and local tourists, according to Aklan Governor Florencio T. Miraflores.

What makes the situation even direr is that the island has just barely recovered from its six-month closure in 2018 and the onslaught of Ursula in December.

“We barely have recovered from the closure, Ursula, and then this one. It has really a huge impact,” he said on Thursday.

On February 2, 2020, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ordered to impose a travel ban to tourists from mainland China and its administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.

Last Friday, the municipal government of Malay issued an order preventing the entry of all persons with travel history from China, Macau, and Hong Kong for the past 14 days.

According to Miraflores, the businesses that are most likely to be affected with the travel restrictions are those that catered to chartered flights from China.

“There are still Koreans coming but the businesses that catered to chartered flights direct from China will really be affected,” he said.

Around 50 percent of the 434,175 foreigners who visited Boracay in 2019 where Chinese tourists.

Moreover, the Kalibo International Airport which is the gateway to the island accounted 60 percent of its flights from China.

Since the travel ban, all of its 23 flights originating from China were grounded.

Meanwhile, Mr. Miraflores said Boracay is still open for business, emphasizing that the island remains free from novel coronavirus.

“I would like to assure our local tourists that Boracay is safe. There is no truth to the rumor going around that there is a confirmed case in Boracay,” he said.