The Philippine Travel Agencies Association Sees Improved Tourism Numbers

The Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) on Tuesday said it expects to see improved tourism numbers in the second quarter despite the possible decline in arrivals in May and June this year due to the ongoing conflict.

PTAA president Marlene Jante said she expects a decline in tourist arrivals and receipts in May and June even after the country posted a healthy 12 percent growth in arrivals for the first quarter of the year as compared to the same period in 2016.

Several countries have issued travel warnings to their citizens not to travel to certain parts of the country because of various reasons, including kidnappings and more recently terror threats.

Jante, however, said she is confident that the country's tourism industry will bounce back once the conflict is resolved and martial law is lifted.

"The mere mention of the words martial law can easily scare tourists away. But we understand and support the government in its actions in Mindanao. The problem in Marawi must be contained. But we know, as travel agents, that most of Mindanao and the rest of the country are safe destinations for tourists to enjoy," Jante said in a statement.

"The country has seen worst situations in the past and every time, our tourism industry has bounced back. We in the PTAA believe that the series of incidents over the past several weeks are just temporary setbacks," she added.

Jante said that with martial law only expected to last 60 days since its proclamation last May 23, both the government and the private sector should coordinate to craft a short term plan for the tourism industry covering the rest of the year and 2018.

Tourism in the Philippines

She, meanwhile, called for a stakeholders meeting to discuss the various issues currently affecting the industry particularly its biggest concern -- tourists who have not been to the country yet.

The PTAA president said that the association is currently conducting an internal survey among members to see how the recent developments have impacted their respective businesses.

"This will be a good gauge on how the industry is performing," Jante said noting that the PTAA will be asking all their members to provide data over the past two months and assess how the travel advisories all the way to the time the Marawi siege erupted have affected their operations.

She said that the data gathered and subsequent analysis will then be forwarded to the Department of Tourism (DOT).

"There has always been a high level of communication and discussion between the PTAA and the DOT. We are more than glad to provide our inputs to them on anything related to the country's tourism," Jante said.

As long as the public and private sectors works together, Jante said that the tourism targets of acquiring 6.5 to 7 million foreign tourist arrivals and 73.3 million domestic arrivals is still achievable.

According to its website, the PTAA is the country's biggest tourism association with more than 500 members nationwide.

The DOT, for its part, reiterated that recent untoward incidents are only a “temporary setback” to Philippine tourism.

DOT Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Frederick Alegre earlier said that martial law could even be perceived as an indication that there is “tighter security” as other parts of the country become more secure.

“For us (martial law) is an indication that somehow when there’s a tighter security measure, there is a perception that (tourists) feel more secure. We’re positive that the decision to secure and make Mindanao a safer place will boost tourism,” Alegre said in an earlier press conference.

He acknowledged that there will be cancellations but noted that it is “temporary in nature.” (Azer N. Parrocha/PNA)

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