Palawan News’ latest special report on the local tourism economy describes the business sector’s “guarded optimism” on the province’s economic recovery from the global crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. It captures a sense of hope that the agony we have endured since the first quarter of last year when the lockdowns began is finally blowing over and the economy seems to be out of the woods.

Even as the pandemic deaths rose to alarming rates at the onset of fall in the United States and most of Europe, the disease’s terrorizing sweep has been dampened somehow by the rollout of vaccines developed by advanced medical laboratories.

For the country, it has become evident that it will take much longer before we can expect mass inoculation as the administration struggles to get its act together and efficiently secure the needed supply of the vaccines for mass distribution. Meantime, we can only shake our heads in remorse at the administration’s fumbles, the latest of which was the controversial illegal importation of the untested and unapproved Sinovac from China to vaccinate all of the president’s guards, and who really knows who else in the higher ranks of this administration, the President including.

Such is the backdrop of the hope for the revival of Palawan’s tourism economy, the sector of the industry that has suffered most from the pandemic because of the consequent travel ban. When the lockdowns began to hit the bottom line and many established were forced to close shop, the mantra was simply to survive as opposed to give up.

A positive takeaway from the current state of things is that it is now more feasible to take business planning in a strategic direction given the set of circumstances that we know. Some have chosen to maintain a low profile, hibernate at best, while others have chosen a bolder path. Last week, the iconic Viet Ville restaurant in Santa Lourdes unveiled an aggressive bid to rebrand itself as a new tourist destination, investing heavily in on-site development even with a limited market as it is.

“We just have to be patient,” Marc Monesa, the manager of the plush Aziza Resort Hotel remarks. This virtue of patience will be tested on the sector during more trying months where travel is expected to remain restricted and promises to be slow once it is even lifted.

The provincial government has estimated tourism losses of the province in billions – P150 billion was the assertion even made by Governor Jose Ch. Alvarez. Such impact, if true, promises to make a deep scar on tourism and make its full recovery difficult. The sector needs all the optimism it could muster and more.