Full recovery of domestic travel market seen this year

THE domestic travel market will fully recover from the pandemic this year, Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Christina G. Frasco said in an episode of BusinessWorld Insights on Wednesday.

“We fully anticipate the 100% recovery of domestic tourism this year, meaning no less than 122 million domestic trips with the growth that we are seeing,” Ms. Frasco said.  

Patria T. Chiong, Philippine Travel Agencies Association president, also cited the need to promote domestic destinations.

“We are encouraging our Filipino travelers to not only travel internationally, but we should also promote our own country by traveling domestically,” Ms. Chiong said.

“We should also promote the other cities because we… also have Cebu, Davao, Siargao, and other destinations. The country is an archipelago and we have more than 7,000 islands. And we cater to all types of tourists depending on your preferences and budget,” Ms. Chiong said.

Ms. Frasco said in the international arrivals market, the Philippines logged over 1.87 million visitor arrivals as of May 2, keeping the 2023 target of 4.8 million within reach.

The top source of visitors was South Korea, she said.

“The US is number two, followed by Australia, Canada, Japan, and China,” Ms. Frasco said.

Ms. Frasco said the 4.8 million goal for 2023 remains a “moving target” depending on how the tourism recovery goes.

“We are very confident of accomplishing our goals. I consider this to be our baseline and not our ceiling… While these numbers have been identified, we should not stop trying to take in more international arrivals,” Ms. Frasco said.

Maria Suzette Geminiano, Hotel Sogo Group corporate marketing manager, said: “We are very optimistic of the tourism sector’s rebound and recovery,” adding that “connectivity matters in the tourism industry.”

“The experiences of people during the pandemic will shape and even improve the tourism sector,” she said.

Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP) Vice-President Robert John Horrigan called for the share of Philippine tourism in gross domestic product (GDP) to rise to 20%, from a pre-pandemic baseline of 12.9% in 2019.  

“We really need to bring our GDP for tourism to 20% like some of our neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia, with the help of the new international airports and infrastructure,” Mr. Horrigan said.

Mr. Horrigan added that HRAP has seen higher occupancy at its member hotels and higher average daily rates for its member restaurants. 

“A growth driver is the surge in meetings, incentives, conferences & exhibitions (MICE). Another driver is the travel corridor. If we can do a travel corridor with South Korea and China, it would definitely see more tourists coming into the country,” Mr. Horrigan said, referring to the practice of expedited admissions for citizens of trusted partner countries.

“It is exciting times because it is rebounding. We feel it, we see it,” he added.

In 2022, the Philippines logged P1.784 trillion in combined international and domestic tourism revenue. The industry employed 5.2 million people, the Department of Tourism said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave