By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Journalist
THE DOMESTIC TOURISM SECTOR is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by 2024, although near-term challenges such as high inflation may affect demand, industry stakeholders say.
“We have consulted with our members, we have also spoken to experts, reports from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and many of them really see 2024 as the year when we can get back to the levels before the pandemic. So the next year and a half will be pivotal,” Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) Executive Director Benito C. Bengzon, Jr. said in an interview with BusinessWorld Live Monday on the One News television channel.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has crippled travel and tourism around the world. The industry is slowly recovering as travel restrictions ease and COVID-19 cases decline.
Bengzon said he was optimistic about the recovery of the tourism and hospitality industry, after travel demand improved during the summer months.
“For the hospitality industry, we have had very good occupancy over the past two months. This was driven by high demand from Filipinos going on summer vacations,” Bengzon said.
Preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recently showed that the share of the local tourism industry in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell from 5.1% in 2020 to 5.2% in 2020. 2021. However, this remains signiIfslightly lower than the 12.7% observed in 2019.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) President Jose C. Clemente III said most countries and industry experts aim to see travel and tourism reach pre-pandemic levels. here 2024.
“Of course, it will depend on some factors such as the war in Ukraine and COVID-19 or new viruses that may appear. If there is a resolution for Ukraine as soon as possible and there is no are no new viruses, so travel and tourism should be fine,” Mr. Clemente said in a Viber message.
John Paolo R. Rivera, associate director at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) – Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism, said in a Viber message that the projection of reaching pre-pandemic levels by 2024 is “reasonable” but may have already taken into account disruptions due to the pandemic, the global economy and other external factors.
“However, it is also possible to reach pre-pandemic levels as early as 2023 if no disruption occurs, such as a power surge, lockdown, war, political instability and security threat. Although this is unlikely , we live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Anything can happen,” Mr. Rivera said.
However, soaring fuel and food prices could pose a challenge to the recovery of the industry.
“Any increase in oil will invariably lead to affprices of commodities and services across different sectors… This (rise in oil) is a challenge but we don’t really see it as a buffer,” Bengzon said.
Mr. Clemente said the industry has little control overflation, which should continue to accelerate in the coming months.
“Unfortunately, dealing with challenges such as inflation and rising oil prices are external factors over which the travel and tourism industry has little control. The best we can do is do our best to keep prices as low as possible, while still making acceptable margins,” Clemente said.
“We have to remember that tourism is also coming out of a two-year hibernation and we are just starting to get back on our feet. We also need to recover what we lost at the height of the pandemic,” he added.
Mr Bengzon said the local tourism industry must strike an “optimal balance” to achieve recovery.
“We know there are still restrictions on international travel. For domestic (travel), in order for us to really maintain that momentum of growth, it’s really important that we’re able to contain COVID-19, to make sure that Filipinos who travel across the country follow the protocols of health,” said the PHOA executive director, noting that tourists from major markets such as South Korea, Japan and China are key to recovery.
According to AIM’s Mr. Rivera, the recovery of the tourism industry can be sustained by encouraging more Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and get vaccinated.
“Everyone should get vaccinated and boosted, continue to comply with minimum health standards so that we can ensure that we do not reach any alert level and avoid an increase in the alert level so that mobility continues to move forward,” Rivera said.