PH to lose ₱42.9 billion in tourism due to coronavirus travel ban

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 12) — The Philippines tourism industry stands to lose P42.9 billion in revenue due to the widespread novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said Wednesday.

She said aviation and cruise industries are suffering because of the restrictions imposed on travelers heading to or from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. The secretary said the huge loss is assuming the travel ban will last for three months.

"The expected reduction in various visitor arrivals from the markets affected will result to foregone revenue that will carry over until about April this year," Puyat said during a House panel hearing.

She said the estimate is based on computations of tourist arrivals from these areas from 2017 to 2019.

Ten days since the start of the travel ban on February 2, over 101,000 flight seats have been canceled and 11 cruise trips have been called off, according to the Philippines' Civil Aeronautics Board.

The tourism chief said foreign arrivals in the country also declined during other outbreaks, such as the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003 and the influenza A(H1N1) in 2009.

She added the negative impact of the travel ban is expected after the Philippines recorded a "substantial increase" in arrivals from China in 2018. The country has welcomed a total of 1,499,524 Chinese in the first 10 months of 2019 — making them the second largest tourism guests, next to South Koreans.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines implored the government to consider lifting the travel ban on Taiwan, saying some private companies are contemplating of closing down as they have no other markets to rely on.

To cushion the blow, Puyat said they are working to boost domestic tourism . Some airlines and hotels have agreed to come up with multiple promotions to help address the decline in revenues.

"It is the first time that hotel owners have agreed to offer discounts to boost sales amid losses due to the novel coronavirus scare," she said.

The tourism executive said the department will double its media placements to let foreign tourists know that it is safe to come to the country even if it has three confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus infection.