Photo by Celeste Anna Formoso

Domestic travel is seen to jumpstart the country’s tourism industry once measures against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) have been relaxed, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Friday.

“Once the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) is lifted, once the GCQ (general community quarantine) is lifted, once the tourism enterprises start operating again, we see that the domestic tourists will be the ones initiating movement,” Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said in Filipino during the Laging Handa briefing.

Bengzon said social distancing and health protocols are likely to stay and would serve as the “new normal”.

“Safety before anything else and we need collective efforts to really flatten the curve. Time will come when the tourism activities will go back to normal,” he said.

Earlier, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said international travel might not happen this year, pending the travel restrictions of other countries.

For the three months of 2020, Bengzon said revenues from foreign arrivals fell by 35 percent compared to the same period last year.

Under a proposed stimulus package, Bengzon said the DOT is expected to get approximately PHP43 billion to fund its tourism recovery plans, with a focus on helping tourism stakeholders survive.

“In our initial computation, out of the PHP43 billion that will be allocated to us, around PHP36 billion will go to working capital,” he said.

Since the ECQ was implemented in March, the DOT’s immediate response included coordinating with government banks to provide rehabilitation financing support to tourism businesses severely affected by the pandemic.

Among others, DOT also mounted its own sweeper flights and assisted over 20,000 stranded foreign tourists.

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