PHL pins hopes on ‘revenge travel’ in 2021

Boat expedition tours to Linapacan Island are among those that interest foreign travel buyers, according Intas Destination Management Inc. (Photo from Intas website)

WITH people around the world feeling cooped up, unable to enjoy new vistas due to Covid-19 international border restrictions, a demand for travel and tourism is simmering and may eventually boil over next year.

Government tourism officials and local destination management companies are hoping the Philippines will benefit from these “revenge travel” plans of foreign tourists.

“Everyone believes that travel will start in the second half of next year [2021], that people will do ‘revenge travel’ after all the restrictions,” said Sonia Lazo, managing director of Intas Destination Management Inc., who participated in online meetings with new buyers in last week’s virtual World Travel Market (WTM). “Meetings were very good…a lot were curious about how things are in the Philippines, Covid-wise, and asking the million-dollar question: when do you think the Philippines will open?” Intas specializes in tours to the Cordillera Administrative Region, El Nido and boat expeditions to Linapacan Island in Palawan, Bohol, Siquijor and Dumaguete.

She expressed optimism, however, and underscored the forward-looking attitude of many participants. “We all have gone past the dark early days when we couldn’t even make a forecast. Now, there’s a sense of planning and preparation for the bounce back.” Her meetings online were less, “about 6 to 8,” than the physical meetings she usually had in the past WTMs, but clients were from “all over”—the United Kingdom, Spain, Ukraine, the US, Australia and Italy.

Tourism Attaché for the UK Gerard Panga underscored the need to maintain the Philippines’s presence in travel trade events such as WTM, one of the leading travel shows in Europe. “The Philippines had one of the biggest growth rates [15 percent] in terms of visitor arrivals last year. The travelers just don’t forget that. When a vaccine is finally discovered, we’d have a big rebound for sure. We just keep pushing on.”

His group was able to meet with key producers of European tourists for the Philippines such as Hotel Beds, Kuoni Travel UK, Dive Worldwide/Regal Dive Holidays, Logitravel Spain, Viatges Traveljess Spain, and the International Wedding Planners Association (IWPA) based in Italy. Hotel Beds, for instance, sent 440,000 customers to the Philippines in 2019 and discussed expansion plans for the Philippines; Kuoni created a new program for Asia focusing on immersive travel itineraries including the Philippines to be reactivated in 2021; and Viatges, with the Filipino community in Spain as clients, has an ongoing promo with Qatar Airways to promote Christmas in the Philippines.

Another key meeting was with the BBC UK’s Travel Show “with 80 million viewers worldwide. It wants to cover the Philippines in 2021,” he said.

The UK market has been growing by 9 percent in the last five years, despite the market slowdown effects of the Brexit, said Panga. “The Philippines is the second top performing destination in terms of Brits’ travel to Southeast Asia in 2019, after Vietnam,” he stressed. He also cited the recent consumer survey of Wanderlust travel magazine, which showed, outside of Europe, 30 percent of the UK respondents would be headed to Asia.

Other buyers interested in the Philippines, Panga added, were from Northern and Southern Europe, as well as India, the US, among others.

For his part, Allan Santos, general manager of the Bohol Beach Club,  said most of the WTM meetings were with existing clients and partners.  “They were made of regular bookers and top producers as well as those that booked seldom but have a market specifically geared towards our resort. Most were European agents coming from UK, France, Italy and Germany,” he said.

He updated these clients on the new health and safety protocols practiced at the resort, “and what we plan to do once the borders open for leisure travel…. Questions regarding when the country and the destination would open were common as they wanted to make sure that they were part of the programs when this happens. Although it was agreed that traveling would not immediately recover once Philippine borders open for leisure, agreements were for long-term arrangements.”

Eighteen private tourism and travel companies and 30 delegates joined this year’s WTM.


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