Weeks after the official rollout of the Philippines’ COVID-19 vaccination program, the government remains hopeful that the recovery of the domestic and international tourism industry will come sooner than expected.
The Department of Tourism has also assured that the government is doing its part to encourage the industry’s revival, sharing that the country was recently awarded by the World Travel and Tourism Council with a safe travel stamp.
Vaccine Priority for ‘Tourism Frontliners’
DOT has also lauded the priority given to tourism frontline service personnel in the country’s vaccination rollout. In an interview, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat agreed with the decision to include this labor demographic under Priority Group IV- A4. As per IATF guidelines, these are uniformed or non-uniformed individuals that were tagged as essential during ECQ the previous year.
“It is, indeed, critical for our frontliners, especially those who continue to man our ports of entry and those who serve at accommodation establishments that have been repurposed as quarantine facilities. These personnel have been there at the onset of the pandemic. They had risked life and limb during the repatriation efforts and up to now, remain at risk with the constant exposure with incoming travelers and guests from all parts of the world,” Secretary Romulo-Puyat expressed to the media.
Ultimately, the vaccination of tourism frontline workers will enable the smooth reopening of the country’s tourist destinations.
“We also look forward to the inclusion of tourism industry workforce at recently-opened destinations, who operate facilities and serve guests directly, as part of the priority groups for vaccination. Our sector’s human capital is essential to the country's socio-economic recovery,” Romulo-Puyat added.
Vaccine Passport Act
In December 2020, members of the Congress have filed House Bill 8280 which aims to “protect the health and safety of the public while balancing the right of people to travel, with the end view of helping the society and economy recover from the effects of the pandemic.”
According to Ang Probinsyano Party List Representative Ronnie Ong, the main author of the bill, the proposed vaccine passport will be the official proof of COVID-19 vaccination for travelers in the country. The Vaccine Passport is valid for both international, domestic, and non-essential travel, employment abroad, local quarantine checkpoints, and other post-vaccination protocols to be implemented by the IATF.
The Department of Tourism has previously backed this proposal which will also encourage vaccine and travel confidence in the Philippines.
"This is a concept that we are supporting because this will help facilitate cross-border travel," Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr. said. "This has been discussed already in many destinations around the world. What we're looking at here is how we can standardize that."
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are also considering the issuance of a digital coronavirus vaccine certificate to further support the revival of the hospitality and tourism sector of the region. This will enable a faster recovery of the industry as this effort will open up travel to people who have been inoculated against COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, the intraregional market accounted for more than 50 million annual visitor arrivals.
Requirement for ‘Faster Tourism Recovery’
In a report released by the Department of Tourism, 31% of the total respondents expressed their belief that “a proven vaccine is a requirement for a fast tourism recovery”. “The Philippine Travel Survey Report: The Evolving Landscape of Domestic Travel in the Philippines” was also commissioned by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and Guide to the Philippines (GTTP) and was released in February 2021.
The study also revealed that a standardized travel protocols for all regions would encourage tourism even during the ongoing pandemic, citing the “varying LGU travel protocols” as the top source of travel inconvenience. Months after the reopening of some key domestic tourist destinations like Boracay, the Department of Tourism has recorded a relatively lower number of guests and visitors.
While COVID-19 vaccines will be the key to the resumption of domestic and international tourism, medical experts and health professionals pointed out that other supplementary measures such as an extensive contact tracing and continuous testing will be crucial to its fool-proof and steady recovery.
Rising Demand for Luxury Properties
A year after the government-imposed lockdowns, KMC reported a growing demand for vacation homes, luxury properties, and houses and lots outside of Metro Manila, instead of condominium units in the city.
“Working professionals are now looking to a house and lot lifestyle instead of condo living,” KMC Managing Director Michael McCullough said in a virtual event. “People who never left their condos for the past 6-7 months while in quarantine are re-evaluating their residential property options. We’ve seen an uptake in demand for second properties, vacation homes, beach properties, house and lots in Laguna, Batangas” he added.
Investors are also pouring in the world-class island of Boracay in Aklan, taking advantage of acquiring properties in this world-renowned tourist destination to prepare for bigger opportunities once the country opens its borders for international travel.
In a separate survey, local investors also share plans of focusing their portfolio to local office, residential, and hospitality real estate properties as optimism picks up since the COVID-19 vaccinations in the country started.
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