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Tourism group to gov’t: do more to lend recovery funds

By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

THE country’s tourism industry group said that there should be more efforts to help businesses avail of government assistance as it anticipates potential recovery only towards the end of 2021.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) President Jose C. Clemente III said that there are tourism businesses that have been hesitant to avail of government loans allocated in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II).

The same can be said, he added, about the cash-for-work program for tourism workers.

“We have to keep reminding affected workers that those are available for them,” he said in mobile messages last week, adding that the industry group is in talks with the government to help distribute funds.

The Trade department in 2020 approved only more than 2,000 loan applications valued at P430.1 million under the P10-billion Bayanihan II loans allocation for smaller businesses, missing its target of processing 15,000 applications for the year. The funding could potentially reach more than 50,000 borrowers overall.

Tourism revenues last year plunged 83% to P81.4 billion after pandemic-related travel restrictions led to an 84% decline in foreign visitor arrivals to 1.3 million. The Tourism department said it would be focusing recovery efforts on the domestic market and will be considering creating travel bubbles with neighbouring countries.

Mr. Clemente said that tourism recovery this year is still uncertain while the public refrains from travel as more strains of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) occur.

“If we can get a significant portion of the population immunized towards the middle of the year, then we might see some activity towards the end of the year,” he said. The government is in talks with seven vaccine manufacturers for 148 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate 50-70 million Filipinos this year.

The Tourism department is also calling for unified contact tracing and requirements among local government units, which decide on the reopening of their areas for tourists. Areas that have reopened tourist destinations include Manila, Boracay, Palawan, Cebu, Bohol, Baguio, and Ilocos Norte.

Mr. Clemente also said that there should be standardized guidelines for all travel destinations.

“As of now, local governments have implemented their respective guidelines which, at times, makes it more difficult for travelers to visit. They are also confusing to most people, which goes against the tenet that travel must be easy,” he said.

The industry retains some optimism, Mr. Clemente said, after recent talks with global partners that continue to identify the country as a top travel destination, indicating potential quick recovery as soon as it is safe to travel.

But many tourism businesses, he added, have already closed shop entirely.

“It has been a cruel 10 months to the travel and tourism industry and we still can’t quite see yet when things will start to pick up, but we continue to cling to hope,” Mr. Clemente said.

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