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DOT’s Puyat: International travel might not happen this year

Filipino travelers may have to hold off their 2020 travel goals outside the country as foreign travel might not yet happen within the year in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

"Travel will not revert to normal right away. Even if the ECQ has been lifted, some LGUs will not yet be open to visitors from other places and international travel might not yet happen within the year pending the travel restrictions of other nations," Puyat told lawmakers at a virtual hearing of the House Committee on Tourism earlier this week.

"At this point in time, traveling is just but a dream," she added.

Puyat said the tourism industry in the country bore the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis especially when it comes to its economic impact.

She said the enforcement of travel restrictions and quarantine measures worldwide to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus generated immediate negative impacts on tourism stakeholders from micro, small and medium enterprises.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) estimated that foreign arrivals for January to March this year only reached 1.3 million, 40.2% lower than the number of arrivals from the same period last year, Puyat said.

Likewise, revenues from foreign arrivals from January to March this year also decreased to P79.8 billion from P134.3 billion during the same period last year, she added.

"For the first few months, we might be limited to creating offers for promoting places that are only a few hours drive away from where the target consumer resides," Puyat said.

"All of these are being studied and evaluated by the DOT and our private stakeholder partners with regular coordination with the IATF," she added.

'New normal'

In anticipation of the "new normal" environment after the COVID-19 crisis, Puyat said the DOT will be adopting several policies and programs to be applied to the country's tourism stakeholders.

These include the regular sanitation and disinfection of hotels, resorts and other accommodations, tourism transport services and other tourism-related establishments, and the provision of sanitation or disinfection devices to tourism workers.

Tourism establishments will likewise be regularly inspected that will involve relevant agencies on health and safety standards such as the Department of Health.

At the same time, the DOT will encourage the development of online systems that can facilitate tourism-related transactions digitally, Puyat said.

The department will also implement the Tourism Response and Recovery Program to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 to the tourism industry, particularly on infrastructure, social services and livelihood, business and product development, she added. — RSJ, GMA News