PHL tourism industry only sees partial recovery, but restaurants expect full rebound in 2022

TOURISM SECRETARY Bernadette Romulo Puyat: No more quarantine requirements for fully vaxxed Filipinos and foreign tourists

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor

MANILA – There is little doubt that the Philippine travel and tourism industry was among the heaviest hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic, with the allied restaurant industry suffering the same serious setback.

But while travel and tourism only expects a 50 percent recovery next year, the country’s restaurants expect a huge rebound, even exceeding what it accomplished the year before the effects of the pandemic set in.

From the smallest family-owned restaurants to fastfood chains all the way to fine dining places, the Restaurant Owners of the Philippines (Resto PH) said last week that the expected recovery next year will be impressive. This will be spurred by what Resto PH president Eric Teng said will be “revenge dining” by consumers, who have not had meals in their favorite restaurants since the lockdowns forced the closure of practically the entire industry since March, last year.

At a forum hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry last week, Resto PH pointed to the impressive recoveries of restaurants in major cities like New York, HongKong and several Chinese cities like Beijing as a possible glimpse of what is to come.

Saying that the Philippine recovery can be expected next year, Teng said, “There is hope for us when you look at the restaurant industry for the Philippines.”

In some of the big cities of the world, the resurgence has even been higher than 100 percent of the pre-pandemic levels, Teng added.

There are, however, some caveats before a recovery can actually take place, he said. Among these is the vaccination level that the government can attain, with a target of 70 percent of the adult population by yearend the figure necessary to attain herd immunity.

Also, there is a need for more assistance from the government to the private sector, said Teng, who added that the help available so far has been insufficient.

Said Teng: “Tax breaks, tax holidays, and other remedial packages that local (and) national government can offer can go a long way in having us reinvest in our businesses or in our inductries.”

As for the travel and tourism industry, more than a million jobs have been lost since the start of the pandemic, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The tourism sector which generated an income of P3.14 trillion (about $62.8 billion) in 2019 is only targeting half that total next year, but the low target will be sufficient to recover from the pandemic.

Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa) president Cesar Cruz said, “Our target now is at least half of that P3 trillion (which) is more than enough for the tourism recovery in the Philippines.”

Due to restrictions in air travel, Philtoa will be focusing on land trips in the short term, said Cruz.

Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said her department is keeping close tabs on Thailand’s “Phuket model or sandbox model” which allows the entry of fully vaccinated foreign visitors without the need for a quarantine upon arrival.

The mandatory quarantine for all incoming visitors to the Philippines has been the bane of tourists, business travelers, and balikbayans due to the added expense. The tourism department has been asking that the mandatory 14-day quarantine at a hotel be shortened or even scrapped for inbound travelers who are fully vaccinated.

Romulo-Puyat said the key to reviving the travel and tourism industry should be to have the entire industry workforce fully vaccinated.

The top travel destination of Boracay has 73 percent of its tourism-related workers vaccinated as of last week, she said.

The tourism secretary said she expects the mandatory quarantine for all inbound travelers to be lifted by next year.