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DOT eyes shopping fest to make up for P14-B in lost tourism revenue

The Department of Tourism (DOT) said it was eyeing a shopping fest in March after the country’s tourism sector lost P14.8 billion in February alone amid the 2019 novel coronavirus scare.

Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. said they would host a Philippine Shopping Fest starting March 1, which would be joined by the country’s biggest mall operators, “just to also add to the effort of making sure people move around and spend some money in the midst of crisis."

However, some senators raised concerns over the large crowds that would be drawn to the event, according to a State of the Nation with Jessica Soho report by Bernadette Reyes on Tuesday.

“Department of Health (DOH) is saying, ‘Don’t have big gatherings because of this contagious disease,’ etcetera. On the other hand, you guys would want people to gather together for tourism,” Senator Franklin Drilon asked tourism officials.

Boncato countered that all tourism stakeholders who would take part in the event were “equipped to handle the crisis,” adding that precautionary measures would be put in place because “tourism business in one way or another has to continue."

Senator Nancy Binay meanwhile said tourism officials should think of other areas to pour their funds into since many people were afraid to travel amid the outbreak.

"Baka sayang 'yung gagastusin natin sa pag-promote kasi, to begin with, 'di talaga bi-biyahe kahit 'yung locals kasi nga may fear of spreading,” she said.

The DOH earlier advised the public to avoid crowded places amid the novel coronavirus outbreak to protect themselves from the virus. 

“We are not really saying that we will have to stop these events. What we are just saying is that we [must] put on precautions,” Health Assistant Secretary Kenneth Ronquillo explained. — Julia Mari Ornedo/DVM, GMA News