Despite CDC travel advisory, tourism group sees 2M tourists by yearend

TOURIST arrivals are projected to reach 2 million by yearend, despite Tuesday’s US government advisory against travel to the Philippines.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) president Jose C. Clemente III expressed optimism the latest pronouncement of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moving the Philippines back to the high-risk Level 3 group of countries,  “will have minimal effect on our tourist arrivals,” which had already reached 1.1 million from February 10 to August 7. “My fearless forecast is that we will probably be nearing 2 million [tourists] by year-end,” judging by the continued increase in bookings from overseas clients, as per TCP member travel agencies.

While 2 million is still a far cry from the 8.26-million foreign guests who arrived pre-pandemic, in 2019, other data point to a quick rebound in the tourism sector. (See, “‘Balikbayans’ push demand for air travel to Philippines,” in the BusinessMirror, June 21, 2022.)

“[Tourists] seem to not care anymore about Covid, even if they have to quarantine in the destination they are headed,” said Clemente, who is also president of the 50-year-old Rajah Tours Philippines. “Personally, I am getting more bookings now from the Netherlands, who are probably on revenge travel mode, and Canada.”

He also noted that the balikbayan (homecoming Filipinos) market continues to remain strong, and will keep being so, whether or not there is a CDC advisory. Data provided by the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed 400,007 overseas Filipinos arrived as tourists as of August 7, 2022. (See, “Tourist arrivals in PHL breach 1-M mark in 6 months,” in the BusinessMirror, August 15, 2022.)

Health, safety protocols remain in place

For her part, TourismSecretary-designate Christina Garcia Frascoassured travelers that health and safety protocols continue to remain in place in Philippine tourism destinations. “The global pandemic continues to expose the tourism industry to challenges, but our travelers can rest assured that the Philippine government continues to ensure that minimum public health and safety standards are in place, coupled with the precautionary measures observed by our partners from the private and public sectors. Therefore, our guests can safely enjoy any of our 7,641 islands even in the time of Covid-19.”

In a news statement issued late Tuesday night, Frasco stressed the Philippines boasts of a 92.3-percent vaccination rate, equivalent to more than 72 million fully-vaccinated Filipinos as of August 14, 2022, citing the latest DOH bulletin.

She added, “We are confident of the measures and guidelines that we have instituted to strike a balance between safety and travel in the new normal.”

As of August 15, the Department of Health has reported 3,484 new Covid cases, with active cases reaching 38,982 nationwide. The positivity rate across to the country is now 14.8 percent.

‘In good company’

The latest CDC travel advisory puts the Philippines, along with Russia and Nepal, to the Covid Level 3 “high risk” group. Along with most of Europe, Level 3 countries number almost 130, or over half of the 235 countries monitored by the CDC for Covid infections.

“If you are not up to date with your Covid-19 vaccines, avoid travel to the Philippines,” said the CDC advisory on Tuesday. “Even if you are up to date with your Covid-19 vaccines, you may still be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19,” the agency added.

TCP’s Clemente noted, “If you look at the other Level 3 countries on the CDC list, these include Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom… and yet people are still traveling there,” he said. “So we’re in good company.”

In the last administration, the DOT pushed for the vaccination and ensuing boosterization against Covid of tourism workers, to ensure they and guests remain safe even while interacting with each other.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes

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