Philippines’ image needs mending from martial law, advisories: trade

The Philippine trade is calling on the government to take the lead in counteracting the spate of travel advisories affecting parts of Mindanao and the Visayas, as well as the whole of Mindanao coming under martial law on Wednesday.

Noting that the destinations are “highly affected by cancellations”, Kirschner Travel Manila general manager, AA Yaptinchay, said: “The government should take the lead and not rely on tourism businesses (to remedy the situation). In the long term, the Philippines needs to provide better governance to… eliminate corruption, poverty and insurgency.

“The only thing agencies can do is to provide information on the actual situation (and convey that) reports are isolated to specific areas,” he added.

Rajah Tours’ president Jojo Clemente agreed: “The most we can do is to assuage fears and misconceptions but the (responsibility) falls on the Department of Tourism (DoT) to spend on image building.”

Fearing that the country’s arrivals targets would be missed this year, a travel agent noted that there’s still no word from the DoT about the cost to tourism arising from the martial law in Mindanao or the travel advisories issued last month by mostly European and North American countries, Japan and South Korea.

Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines, which fly extensively to and from Mindanao, are allowing rebookings and hopefully, refunds, said a travel consultant who saw booking cancellations from corporate and leisure travellers.

At yesterday’s Asia Premium Travel Mart roundtable discussion, Be Resorts director of sales Hazel Abayon, said the local government was hands-on in securing the whole area and ensuring that no tourist came to harm during the clash between Abu Sayyaf terrorists with the military last month.

Abayon added that contrary to expectations, tourist numbers are improving for May, June and July.

In areas not directly affected by the travel advisories, El Nido Resorts, for example, is running about 70 per cent occupancy, said director of sales and marketing Joey Bernardino. About 60 per cent of guests are foreigners, mostly from Europe.

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