EL NIDO, Palawan – Tourism stakeholders here are bracing for a slump in the industry once the quarantine is lifted and has begun exploring new business models to try and sustain the local industry.
“Realistically, we expect that the tourism business would not pick up immediately. We have planned to do more domestic marketing approach and sustainable programs like offering diving learning packages to local residents, as well as domestic tourists,” Carmel Panelo, manager of Deep Blue Dive Safari, a SCUBA dive company, told Palawan News.
“We understand that the diving business is going to be a little bit difficult to jump start. It is a contact activity and expensive. However, we have discussed and learned some ways to make it more attractive to the leisure market.” she added.
“I and my team have focused on learning and studying thru webinars offered by PADI on how and what we can do after the ECQ.”
Since March 15, 2020, no inbound arrivals through land, sea, and air have been permitted in the municipality. Mercy flights had flown out some 315 stranded tourists, according to the Municipal Tourism Office (MTO) while 309 have chosen to stay in the municipality.
The MTO recorded a total of 1,306 tourism-oriented establishments. A total of 263 individuals are registered tourism workers. Tourism also fuels other industries, such as wholesale and retail goods, laundry services, and tricycle operations.
Life in quarantine
Travel and tour operators, which offer the famous Tours A, B, C, and D, rely greatly on bulk arrivals of tourists, particularly foreigners. However, without tourism activity, they are forced to cease operations and wait until the ECQ has been lifted.
“Sa ngayon, ang ginagawa ko, nagbabantay lang ng anak ko. Ang asawa ko kasi, may trabaho pa rin,” said Rene Adao, 23. Adao has been a tour guide for three years and is a regular employee to a travel and tour company.
“Ang ginagawa ko, nagkukopras, minsan sumasama sa laot kasama ang kapitbahay ko,” said Sherwin Payas, 28, another tour guide.
“Sa ngayon, pinapahiram namin ang mga bangka namin sa mga crew at guide namin, para kahit papaano, may mahuli silang pang pagkain nila,” said Joie Ulanday, a travel and tour business owner. His company accommodated 20-25 tourists a day before the ECQ. The company also employed a total of 13 freelance tour guides, boat captains, and crew.
“Naniniwala naman kami na may purpose ang quarantine, na para hindi magkasakit ang mga tao. ‘Yon lang, talagang dapat tipid muna. Wala munang gastos, at tutulungan namin ang mga empleyado namin hangga’t makakaya.”
“We have started a GoFundMe program for the staff as we plan to support the staff while we are still affected by this CoVID pandemic,” Panelo said.
Business owners have applied for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP).
“We already applied for the Dept of Labor CAMP employee assistance program. Hopefully, our employees get approved and receive their share,” said Panelo.
“Nag-submit kami noong March 30 pa. Sinama na naming kahit ang mga freelance tour guides namin. Wala pa ring dumarating,” said Ulanday. “Namigay muna kami ng bigas sa mga staff para kahit papaano, meron din kaming maitulong sa kanila.”
The tourism landscape after ECQ
Workers and business owners are unsure whether tourists will immediately start visiting El Nido again after ECQ has been lifted. They stated that they may have no choice but to wait until it is safe for tourists to travel again.
“Realistically, we expect tourism business would not pick up immediately. We have planned to do more domestic marketing approach and sustainable programs like offering diving learning packages to local residents, as well as domestic tourists,” said Panelo. “We understand that the diving business is going to be a little bit difficult to jump start. It is a contact activity and expensive. However, we have discussed and learned some ways to make it more attractive to the leisure market.”