’19 nCoV travel ban could spell P27-B loss for tourism sectors

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THE country’s tourism and travel industry are projected to lose at least P27 billion with the temporary travel ban imposed by Malacañang on travelers from China and its special administrative territories, Hong Kong and China.

The ban, announced on Sunday before the Department of Health (DOH) reported its first death from the novel coronavirus (nCoV), does not cover, however, Filipino citizens and holders of Permanent Resident Visas issued by the Philippine government.

The Tourism Congress of the Philippines, which had been urging for a complete travel ban on China since last week, welcomed the move of Malacañang. In a news statement on Sunday, the group said, “While we realize that this will affect the tourism industry, we also acknowledge that our country’s safety and health takes precedence over business at this time.”

From January to November 2019, tourists from China were the second-largest spenders in the Philippines at $2.14 billion or P109.14 billion. Based on an average spend of $195 million for the 11 months in review, the Philippines is estimated to forgo tourism receipts amounting to $390 million or P19.89 billion for two months, if the ban lasts until March 2020.

China was the second top source market for tourists at 1.63 million from January to November 2019.

During the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003, which also began in China, arrivals in the Philippines slipped by 1.3 percent to 1.91 million.

Major local carriers, for their part, are projected to post over P6 billion in losses from the cancellation of their flights to mainland China.

Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) Director for Corporate Communications Charo Logarta Lagamon said the “initial estimate is about

P3 billion from operating profit” will be lost from the cancellations for at least two months, until March 29. This includes the charters between Kalibo and China, “although these are not regular and steady.”

While officials of Philippine Airlines (PAL) had not yet responded to the BusinessMirror’s query as of press time, an airline industry analyst who requested anonymity, said the carrier’s losses “will likely reflect that of Cebu Pac’s as well.”

CEB operates 68 flights a week between the Philippines and Beijing,  Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzen, Xiamen, as well as flights to Macau and Hong Kong.

PAL, for its part, operates 69 flights a week between the Philippines and Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Macau, Shanghai and Xiamen.

Philippine tourism attachés based in mainland China are now advising the local travel agencies and associations about the temporary travel ban on travelers from China. In a news statement, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said there will be a mandatory 14-day quarantine for Filipinos and permanent resident visa holders coming from any place in China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Likewise, Filipinos are banned to travel to these places.

Guidelines

The DOT on Saturday also released guidelines for tourism enterprises in handling guests with the nCoV crisis. These includes guide questions to ask when a guest feels ill, the implementation of stringent sanitation procedures in housekeeping as well as food and beverage handling, adoption of strict personal hygiene practices including “proper cough etiquette,” use of alcohol/hand sanitizer, among others.

“The safety and protection of our citizens thriving in our tourist spots, the employees of the tourism sector, and domestic and foreign tourists alike remain the Department of Tourism’s priority. We call on everyone in the tourism industry to follow these directives until the World Health Organization and the Philippine government deems it safe to resume travel to these parts,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat.

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