As tourism gradually reopens, the demand for nature-based tourism is likely to increase as people look for safer alternatives in selecting destinations to visit, Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said Thursday.

This said, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is ramping up its efforts to develop new tourism products that would cater to the travelers’ preferences amid the pandemic.

“We’re working on product development kasi kailangan mag-develop tayo ng mga bagong produkto na angkop sa requirements ng mga travelers under the new normal kasi makikita natin na there is a greater preference for lower density, high-value, mas maraming mga outdoor types of tours (We’re working on product development because we need new ones that are fit to the needs of travelers under the new normal. We see that there is a greater preference for lower density, high-value products, majority wants outdoor types of tours),” he said during Thursday’s Laging Handa briefing.

Bengzon is optimistic the Philippines would be able to draw domestic tourists, even foreigners once travel restrictions are eased. He said such preference among travelers could work to the Philippines’ advantage given its numerous nature-based assets.

Just recently, the Philippines was recognized as the world’s leading dive destination, beating top dive spots such as Azores Islands, Bora Bora, French Polynesia, Cayman Islands, Fiji, Galapagos Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Maldives, and Mexico.

Aside from its promising sites underwater, the country also offers idyllic resort islands, including Palawan, Boracay, and Siargao Island, which was recently cited as one of the best 2021 holiday destinations by Condé Nast Traveller.

Bengzon said the DOT is also banking on local travel to drive the industry’s recovery. This as he noted that tourism revenues from domestic travel alone reached PHP3.1 trillion in 2019, much higher than inbound which was pegged at PHP548.8 billion in the same year.

“Mga 85 percent of total tourism revenues are from domestic tourism. So we’re also confident na mapapabilis ang recovery ng ating industriya kung matutulungan natin itong mga local enterprises natin (Around 85 percent of total tourism revenues in 2019 are from domestic tourism. So we’re also confident that we’ll be able to fast-track the industry’s recovery if we’re going to help our local enterprises),” he said.

Months after the first lockdown was imposed, several Philippine destinations started welcoming tourists, but with certain travel requirements such as the “test-before-travel” rule. (PNA)