Natural calamities and strained foreign relations affect inbound arrivals
The country failed to reach its tourist arrival target in 2013 due to several unfortunate events. Tourist arrivals for the first half of 2013 was adversely affected by clashes with neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Taiwan, such that the double-digit growth in arrivals from the two countries since 2010 went negative in 2013. Two disastrous calamities, meanwhile, afflicted the country during the last quarter of 2013. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the popular tourist destination of Cebu and Bohol whilst super typhoon Haiyan levelled parts of Visayas and disturbed operations in the well-known tourist island of Boracay. These natural calamities led to the subsequent cancellation of trips towards the end of the year in what otherwise would have been the peak season of travel.
Tourism promotions undergo evolution
The Department of Tourism (DOT) slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” was deemed unfitting in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan. Consequently, it was temporarily replaced with Bangon (rise) Tours under the tagline Bakasyon Mo, May Meaning (Your Vacation has a Meaning) to encourage domestic tourism and raise funds for the rehabilitation of destinations devastated by the earthquake and super typhoon. DOT’s use of social media to promote the country was also supplemented with a mobile application featuring key tourist destinations in the country. Digital information kiosks are also set to be put up in key locations in Metro Manila to allow domestic and foreign travellers round-the-clock access to vital information.
Airline industry witnesses shifts and developments
The flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is set to change hands as Lucio Tan made known his plan to sell his 51% share in the company. AirPhil Express, PAL’s low-cost subsidiary, meanwhile, was rebranded to PAL Express, accompanying changes in its inflight services. Zest Air, on the other hand, was rebranded to AirAsia Zest as the Philippine unit of AirAsia bought a 49% stake in Zest Airways. Tigerair likewise underwent consolidation as Tigerair Philippines was wholly acquired by Cebu Air. Alongside these shifts in ownership is the signing into law of Republic Act 10374 exempting foreign airlines from paying both the Common Carriers Tax and Gross Philippine Billing Tax, resulting in an equal tax treatment between domestic and foreign airlines.
Online travel retailers grow in number
The use of online channels in travel retail remained limited in 2013 with leisure travellers being the main users. International websites, however, are more prominently utilised given the limited presence of local travel retailers in online channels. Local online travel retailers, nevertheless, are witnessing a rise in number with the entry of sites such as travelbook.ph, muranglipad.com, tripmoba.com and travelunlimitedonline.com. The multiple payment options available through these websites are amongst their salient features. Others even allow cash payment through outlets of a local pawnshop chain, making them well fitted to the unique needs of Filipino consumers.
Recovery of the tourism industry expected over the forecast period
The Department of Tourism (DOT) is predicted to exert further efforts to promote the country and inform potential visitors that other tourist destinations remained intact after typhoon Haiyan. Growth of inbound arrivals is predicted to be supported by the forthcoming completion of luxury casinos in the Entertainment City. This is expected to entice high rollers from neighbouring Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. DOT’s promotional efforts is also likely to go beyond highlighting the country’s beautiful beaches and instead promote as well the country as a MICE destination and as a centre for learning the English language and wellness.
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