International tourism receipts plunge 83% in 2020


MANILA, Philippines — Inbound tourism receipts dropped 83 percent last year as the government banned international travel due to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of Tourism (DOT) reported yesterday.

In a press briefing, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said total receipts generated from inbound tourism reached P81.40 billion last year, a sharp decline from P482.16 billion in 2019.

International tourism receipts consist of spending of foreign visitors, including payments to air carriers, for goods and services received in the country.

Similarly, foreign visitor arrivals declined 84 percent to 1.3 million in 2020 from 8.2 million arrivals in 2019.

Under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2016- 2022, the Philippines was targeting inbound tourism revenue of P661 billion and foreign visitor arrivals of 9.2 million for 2020.

Data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) showed that the international tourism industry lost around $935 billion in revenues from January to October 2020 as international arrivals plunged 72 percent to 900 million.

In terms of targets this year, Puyat said the DOT is updating the NTDP to be aligned with the Tourism Response and Recovery Program (TRRP) to strengthen institutional and policy reforms, as well as help prepare destinations toward the new normal.

“Recalibration of targets and refocusing to domestic tourism in the short term will be carried out,” Puyat said.

Under the current version of the NTDP, the DOT is targeting revenues of P3.905 trillion, foreign visitor arrivals of 12 million and domestic visitors of 89.2 million by 2022.

Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said the draft NTDP is targeted to be completed by the end of the month.

“We are also preparing the TOR (terms of reference) for the next time frame of the next NTDP to cover the period 2022-2027,” Bengzon said.

The STAR reported earlier that the preparations for the next NTDP is among the initiatives of the DOT this year.

“That plan will boldly reinvent and reform the tourism industry in the next six years. It will be formulated using the bottoms-up approach to elicit engagement starting at the grassroots level,” Puyat said.

As it remains uncertain when the Philippines will welcome international tourists again, Puyat said the DOT would focus on domestic tourism as a main strategy to reboot the industry.

“Together with the TPB (Tourism Promotions Board), we will spearhead product diversification and enhancement activities with the regions and LGUs,” Puyat said.

Faced with the new COVID variant, Puyat said entry protocols would need to be further strengthened.

She emphasized, however, that this would not stop the DOT from working on the reopening of more local destinations.

“On our part, the continued development of health and safety guidelines for the operations of other tourism enterprises and activities will be prioritized to ensure the well-being of visitors and workers as well as help improve the readiness of destinations to reopen for business, “Puyat said.

“Hopefully, with the improvement of community quarantine levels, efforts will be intensified to help revive tourism activities and restore job and livelihood opportunities,” she said.

Moreover, Puyat emphasized that the Philippines is willing to tie up with neighboring countries first for international travel bubbles, whenever it is feasible.

“The entry of balikbayans before the travel ban has served as a dry-run to the potential travel bubble with nearby countries,” she said.

Puyat emphasized that international travel bubbles demand the strict enforcement of health and safe protocols at the destination countries. She added that the proper infrastructure needs to be established and certified by both governments to ensure symbiotic and harmonious results.

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