EL NIDO, Palawan — A tourism expert foresees a difficult road ahead for the recovery of the sector in a post pandemic environment, and is predicting new trends in the way tourism will be practiced once it is able to recover its bearings.
Dr. Randi Alampay, professor at the University of the Philippines Asian Institute of Tourism (UP-AIT) and consultant to various relief projects of non-government organizations (NGOs), said that industry losses because of the pandemic is getting to be more than earlier anticipated by the sector.
“The prospects are not very encouraging. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) already forecasted a 20-30% decline in pre-lockdown days, and these numbers are only getting bigger by the moment. We are looking at nearly 5-7 years worth of losses in tourism arrivals,” Alampay said in a webinar last week.
“Airlines, which are mostly financed on loans, will be hit very hard and may even have to close,” he added.
Alampay presented a model of possible tourism trends that may emerge in a post-COVID environment, given that travel is once more possible.
He cited a so-called Yeoman’s (2020) model, which visualized a new trend in favor of “green tourism” as opposed to mass tourism.
“In a survey done by the Visa credit card company before the pandemic, it was discovered that members were willing to pay premiums on so-called “green” establishments and destinations. Yeoman suggests that because of the crisis, consumers may no longer follow this behavior for green destinations,” Alampay told the Palawan News.
“Yeoman is suggesting that people will opt for simpler travel arrangements. If they will be going to Palawan, it will not just be because it is pristine, but also because it will be good value for money.”
He said that for Palawan’s tourism to recover, it should consider to forego its targets of increasing tourist arrivals.
“Palawan may have to re-wire the way it used to do its packaged tours. Mass tourism models may no longer be applicable in a post-COVID world. Focusing on small groups and families may be the best way to go,” Alampay said.
“Green destinations will need to shift the focus on people going outdoors with fewer crowds. The focus should be on safety and cleanliness instead,” he added.
Alampay said that while international travel may not revert to normal anytime soon, Palawan should focus on the domestic markets, and even look to its own locals to get tourism up and running again.
“The trend is that we may not have plenty of foreign visitors in a while because the airline industry is especially hard-hit. What we can do is look to our own locals and see how we can make our own destinations enticing to them. This may be a time to rediscover our own sites,” said Alampay. “Also, sites like El Nido, which is very dependent on tourism and little else, may want to strengthen other industries in the area, such as agriculture.