A growing list of travel advisories against parts of the Philippines after a clash between the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group and the military left 10 dead has led to cancellations from the issuing countries and beyond.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France and the UK have warned against travel to areas in Mindanao and the Visayas.
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Central Visayas
But Bohol Tourism Council chair, Lucas Nunag, expects the impact to be shortterm, saying: “The travel advisories and the actual encounter in Bohol have resulted in some, but not heavy cancellations.”
“The ASEAN meetings scheduled in Bohol this week will proceed and many of the participants will visit our popular attractions. The resorts still have high occupancy during Holy Week (last week) and tourism activities continue as usual,” said Nunag.
Blue Horizons Travel & Tours expects cancellations from Europeans, who are more sensitive to travel advisories and are mindful that trips will no longer be covered by insurance once a country issues them, said Marjorie Aquino, senior sales and marketing manager.
Even tourists from countries that haven’t issued travel warnings are daunted. An industry source shared that a group of travellers from Hong Kong and Singapore decided to cancel their trips to Cebu and Bohol at the last minute.
Philippine Tour Operators Association president Cesar Cruz said that it is “unfair” that the Philippines is being singled out as unsafe.
“Tell me, which country can (claim to be) safe after what happened in France, London, New York, Sweden and Spain? They are the epitome of safe countries but incidents also happened there. (Terrorism concerns) are a worldwide problem.”
In a statement, the Department of Tourism expressed “complete confidence that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are on top of the national security situation in Central Visayas”.
It added: “We are actively coordinating… with our local and national security and law enforcement agencies who are fully capable of putting travellers’ concerns at ease.
“Proper authorities have assured that both international and domestic travellers may continue with their travel plans, even as we remind all stakeholders of usual safety precautions that must be routinely observed at all destinations.”