Greed can destroy the tourism sector

Social media is a powerful platform used by billions of people across the globe. For tourist destinations, social media provides an opportunity to reach prospective visitors globally. For customers, the platform makes it easier for them to communicate with businesses. Social media has the power to make or break a business. For example, a bad review about a tourist destination can turn away potential visitors, which is impossible to quantify.

Recently, a viral Facebook post showed a group of tourists being charged over P26,000 for various types of seafoods that they consumed in Panglao’s Virgin Island. The alleged food overpricing has alarmed the Department of Tourism and local government officials in Bohol. In a statement on August 2, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco said the overpricing by vendors “is a matter that the DOT takes seriously, especially as it concerns the welfare of tourists whose continued support for our destinations is critical to the recovery of the tourism industry.”

Garcia-Frasco added: “The DOT has coordinated with the Department of Trade and Industry because it is imperative that reasonable pricing standards are upheld for purposes of consumer protection. Our regional office is also coordinating with the LGUs to provide guidance on standards for the provision of tourist goods and services.”

Bohol Governor Aris Aumentado on Tuesday ordered the temporary suspension of trips to Virgin Island in Panglao after the alleged overpriced sale of seafoods in the area went viral online. Aumentado said: “We are grateful to social media because it has given us a solid reason for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to craft resolutions or ordinances that can provide protection and order to tourists that have been exploited for a long time by some businessmen in Panglao and other cities.”

The World Tourism Organization of the United Nations said the collapse in international travel because of Covid-19 represents an estimated loss of $1.3 trillion in revenues—more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis. The pandemic has put between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk, many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises. The Philippine tourism industry reportedly lost some $8 billion (P400 billion) in 2020 because of the pandemic.

The tourism industry was one of the key contributors to the country’s economic growth before the pandemic. In 2019, for example, we registered 8.3 million tourist arrivals and P550.2 billion in international tourism receipts. In 2020, tourist arrivals and tourism receipts went down to 3.9 million and P279.5 billion, respectively.

The shutdown of tourism establishments to help curb Covid infections has led to the country’s highest-ever unemployment rate. The Philippine Statistics Authority said over 7.3 million jobs were lost in 2020 alone, bringing our unemployment rate to a record high of 17.7 percent. With the closure of many tourism enterprises, employment in the sector declined by 18.1 percent in 2020 to 4.7 million workers from 5.7 million workers employed in 2019.

As early as February 10 this year, the Philippines started easing restrictions and begun admitting fully vaccinated travelers from countries that do not require a visa. As the tourism sector starts to recover, many local destinations and tourism-related businesses and establishments are gradually recouping losses due to previously imposed travel restrictions.

We understand the challenges faced by many tourism-related businesses and establishments, which are eager to recoup losses due to Covid travel restrictions. But all Filipinos need to help make our tourist spots more attractive to both foreign and local visitors if we want to maximize the sector’s potential. Let’s not be greedy in our desire to recoup our losses during the pandemic.

We need to keep visitors happy, for them to recommend our tourist destinations to family and friends. As the DOT chief said, Tourism is a shared responsibility, and it is in helping each other along this period of recovery that we can fully enjoy the benefits that tourism brings.

As stated earlier, the country’s income from travel and tourism is huge, amounting to P550.2 billion before the pandemic. A booming tourism sector will not only benefit stakeholders but the whole country as well. It’s best for tourism-oriented businesses to heed the wisdom of Desmond Tutu, a South African Anglican bishop and theologian, who once said: “There is only one way to eat an elephant: One bite at a time.”

Greed can destroy the country’s tourism sector.