The Puerto Princesa City economy stands to lose over P5 billion in tourism revenues this year because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector, according to City Councilor Matthew Mendoza, chair of the city council’s committee on tourism.

Mendoza pointed out that tourism receipts from 2019 had ran up to P5.45 billion, with the arrival of some 1.2 million tourists. He said this will not be realized this year, noting that in the first quarter of the year when the coronavirus was already a growing concern, the city’s projected tourist arrivals already went down by a steep 80 percent.

“In 2019, tourism receipts generated more than P5.45 billion worth of revenues, with 1.2 million tourist arrivals. These figures dropped by 80 percent [in] the first quarter of 2020. The downturn in tourism arrivals was more apparent when the city imposed the (enhanced community quarantine) ECQ last March 15,” Mendoza said.

Speaking in an online learning session hosted by the United States Agency for International Development-Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (USAID-SURGE) Project on Tuesday, Mendoza said the tourism decline began with the lockdown imposed by the national government in March.

He said that to address the income loss of the sector, the city government facilitated a partnership with the private sector and coordinated with involved departments and organizations.

Mendoza also said they are pushing for a tax incentive package for tourism establishments to be part of the policy initiatives to help the sector recover in a post-COVID scenario.

The City Tourism Office (CTO), Mendoza added, was also one of the key players in various relief efforts done by the local government to repatriate stranded individuals and temporary employment for displaced tourism workers.

City tourism chief Aileen Cynthia Amurao, presiding over a Tourism Council meeting last week (June 17), recommended before the City Council at least four local measures to boost tourism-related businesses post-pandemic.

The proposed resolutions included sustaining business operations by ensuring business survival; appropriating infrastructure to better adapt to the new normal; securing livelihood and adequate social services to protect visitors and tourism workers, and enhanced marketing, and market and product development to “restore industry confidence”.

The management of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) is also planning to enhance its payment platform as it prepares post-pandemic transactions by 2021. The move was to limit direct contact with the tourists, which was also recommended by certain experts on the tourism industry.

“With regards to this matter, their office (CTO) in the process of making a system developer for the [safety] travel and cashless transaction including strategy systems,” Mendoza added.

(With reports from Romar Miranda, Patricia Laririt, and Jeshyl Guiroy)