Tuesday, 6 June 2017

PHILIPPINES: Martial Law Cost The Philippines Tourism Dearly

Davao City, a prime tourism destination in Mindanao, has reported losses reaching P20 million from the cancellations of bookings in hotel rooms and event spaces, due
to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

GeneRose Tecson, Davao City’s provincial tourism officer, said: During our meeting last Saturday, May 27, with various leaders from Davao’s tourism industry, the hotels and convention venues pegged revenue losses at P20 million due to cancellations of hotel rooms and events.

She added, the bigger hotels, of course, experienced more cancellations because their clientele comes from outside Mindanao. But we are hoping that these cancellations convert into rebookings once the situation has normalized.

She said the cancellations were from domestic travelers, Koreans and some Japanese. But we have had people calling our office from all over the world asking about the situation in Davao, which, of course, is business as usual.

Tecson believes the situation will improve soon: We are expecting a group of no less than 50 pax from the local government of Nanning, China, from June 8 to 10. They will be holding a trade and cultural show on June 9. She stressed that, despite the martial- law declaration in Mindanao, the group has not canceled its trip.

This developed as the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Wednesday expressed confidence that the industry will be able to withstand the current adverse impact of the martial-law declaration in Mindanao and rebound when the situation has settled.

The agency is also working on informing foreign tourists of alternative destinations to Mindanao, according to its news statement.

This is just a temporary setback,said Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo as she met with industry stakeholders at the DOT office on Monday. We express full confidence in our Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] and Philippine National Police [PNP] to completely return Marawi City to normalcy.

Clashes between government troops and the Maute Group, a rebel group said to have some ties to Islamic jihadists, are ongoing in Marawi City despite President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Martial law was declared on May 23, after the government troops’ operation to extract Isnilon Hapilon, who heads the Abu Sayyaf, from Marawi City was foiled.

Resorts even in Cebu, and local carriers reported to the DOT cancellations in bookings by foreign tourists. (See, “Tourism industry hit by martial-law declaration” in the BusinessMirror, May 30, 2017.

On his part, Jay Aldeguer, president and CEO of Cebu-based The Islands Group, which has hotels in Cebu and Palawan, said: So far the effect of martial law has not yet taken place yet on the retail side. Our hotels have not had cancellations except for a couple in Palawan.

So far, only our Davao outlet Island Souvenirs has seen a drop in sales. Most travelers may have already arrived, therefore, the minimal effect.

But he added, We do, however, see some effect in the coming months due to the reported cancellations of hotels and resorts. If this goes on for more than a month, two things can happen; either it continues to make headlines and scare travelers off or people forget there is a crisis going on in an isolated part of the country.

Sadly there has been so many of terror incidents all over the world that people are beginning to accept and are moving on quicker. If this happens, then the tourism industry won’t be as affected.

The DOT has tried to remain optimistic in the face of the cancellations of hotel and resort bookings. Although cancellations have been reported, we want to inform our visitors of the wide selection of alternative destinations in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country, Teo said.

She reiterated that Mindanao can recover and regain its visitors, citing Davao City’s tourist arrivals of 459,104 for the first quarter of 2017, which is 13-percent higher from the same period last year. The DOT projects visitor arrivals in Region 12 (Davao region) to reach 3.7 million this year.

Foreign travelers, especially from South Korea and Japan, have been canceling their trips to Manila and Cebu because of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

As this developed, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said it continues to monitor the situation and safety of tourists nationwide, as a team prepares to leave for Seoul on Thursday to clarify the issues concerning martial law with Korean tour operators and travel agencies.

Flag carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific Airways (CEB), also confirmed canceled bookings on scheduled flights from South Korea and Japan to Manila and Cebu.

President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, after government troops clashed with a local rebel group, called the Maute, in Marawi City. The joint military and police operation was to capture Isnilon Hapilon, head of the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has ties to ISIS.

Cancellation of bookings by foreigners was expected to happen,” Tourism Assistant Secretary and Spokesman Frederick M. Alegre told said. But we continue to monitor the situation and have asked our regional directors to keep tourists safe, he said.

The agency received reports of the cancellations when its officials, led by Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo, met with industry stakeholders on Monday at the DOT office in Makati City.

The stakeholders included representatives from the local airlines, hotels and tour operators in Cebu and Manila, among others.

He declined to say, however, how much losses the local industry stakeholders had reported from this new crisis.

Many of these establishments are just starting to recover after travel advisories, issued by foreign governments against Central Visayas right before Holy Week, led to booking cancellations by many foreign tour groups.

In a text message, PAL President Jaime Bautista confirmed the drop in bookings…mostly from Japan, Korea, and the local market as a knee-jerk reaction to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

But we expect this to stabilize as more updates from the government are coming in.

He added: Advisory of assurance from the DOT and the government is much appreciated, so we hope to have this from the government.

He also said the drop in flight bookings are from foreign passengers flying in to Manila and Cebu.

Two hotels in Cebu, Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan and Quest Cebu, received requests mostly from Koreans, and a little of Japanese for cancellation of P1.5 million worth of bookings, a hotel source said.

But when we explain to them how far Mindanao is from Cebu, they no longer insist on canceling their bookings.

Only 5 percent to 10 percent of those who requested cancellations opted to postpone their trips to a later date, which we have allowed them to do.

Both hotels are owned by the Gotianun-led Filinvest Development Corp. The source said no reports of cancellations have been received in its Alabang property, Crimson Hotel. Korean tourists usually stay about three to four days in the Philippines.

Cebu Pacific, meanwhile, said only 5 percent of its clients who have confirmed bookings to Mindanao have decided to rebook their flights to Mindanao to a later date or to another destination.

Charo Logarta-Lagamon, CEB director of Communications, said, When we’re asked if the flights to Mindanao are pushing through, we say yes, and they usually push through with their flights. Those who ask if it’s safe to fly there, however, we have to just tell them to take the usual precautions as advised by the government, like bringing a valid ID and such.

CEB flies to 14 destinations in Mindanao, but not to Marawi nor Iligan City.

She declined to disclose cancellations by foreign passengers, but said, any cancellations are expected owing to the martial-law declaration.

But we expect to make up for these during other peak periods. Aviation sources said the airline received canceled bookings from Korean group tours going on its scheduled flights to Manila and Cebu.

Alegre, meanwhile, said he will be heading a delegation to Seoul that will meet with Korean tour operators and travel agencies, in a bid to reassure them that it is safe to travel in other parts of the Philippines not covered by martial law.

The Philippines is targeting 6.5 million foreign visitor arrivals in 2017, although unofficially, it is eyeing 8 million due to the commitment of the Beijing government to send 1 million tourists to the Philippines this year.

In the first two months of the year, 1.2 million foreign visitors arrived in the Philippines, up 10.88 percent from the same period last year.

Koreans continue to be the top visitor market, accounting for 25.2 percent of the total arrivals for the period, while the Japanese accounted for 8.7 percent of the total volume.