FILIPINO travelers are expected to go on "travel spree" again once the government eases restrictions to movement around the country.
However, a recent survey conducted on the pandemic’s effects on domestic and international tourism and on Filipinos’ travel behavior in the post-COVID-19 "new normal” revealed Filipino travelers now preferto go to destinations closer to home and spend less amid lingering health concerns caused by the pandemic.
This is how country’s tourism industry will recover after it was heavily affected by the mobility restrictions imposed to control the spread of COVID-19.
The Department of Tourism released the report entitled “Philippine Travel Survey: Insights on Filipino Travel Behavior Post-COVID 19” to various tourism stakeholders in a webinar on Monday,June 29).
Key insights of the survey, which was conducted last May among over 12,000 respondents across the country, were:
Domestic leisure travel will lead the recovery of Philippine tourism;
Majority of travelers expect a reduction of their income and travel budget;
Health and safety remains the primary concern of travelers;
Travelers prefer reduced-contact activities once leisure travel restrictions are lifted; Travelers prefer online and digital channels for convenience and reduced contact; and Travelers plan to travel close to home.
The survey represents the data-driven efforts of the DOT and tourism stakeholders to restart the local travel industry, which had been gravely affected by restrictions caused by the pandemic.
“We believe in a collaborative approach to recovery,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
“The survey, which was distributed online, sought the sentiments and concerns that respondents have concerning domestic travel in light of the pandemic, in order to provide insights to tourism enterprises to better prepare, respond, and serve guests and tourists again,” Puyat added.
The travel survey is a joint project of the DOT, the Asian Institute of Management Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism, and Guide to the Philippines. It shows how the public, the government, the private sector, and the academe can collaborate for the industry’s eventual recovery, Puyat said.
Result of the survey also revealed that domestic travel will lead the recovery of the Philippine travel industry, with 77 percent of respondents expressing their willingness to travel to local destinations once restrictions are lifted. More than half of the respondents also look forward to travel for leisure or vacation, even in the absence of a vaccine against COVID-19.
Popular local tourist spots, especially beaches, are expected to see a surge in visitors. Boracay, Siargao, and Baguio top the list of destinations to visit when travel is permitted again. Filipinos also prefer to travel to destinations closer to home.
The majority of the respondents also prefer activities they deem “safe” with limited face-to-face interaction. Top travel activities that are high on their minds are beach trips, road trips, and staycations at 69, 54, and 41 percent, respectively.
Domestic travel will be the main priority as fewer people are likely to travel internationally in the near future. This is due to reduced incomes and travel budgets in the light of the pandemic’s impact on the economy. Travelers are also less likely to buy travel deals and packages anytime soon.
Domestic tourism is the biggest contributor to the Philippine tourism industry with P3.14 trillion in earnings. This is 10.8 percent of the tourism industry’s 12.7-percent contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year.
Travel plans are also largely going digital, as 72 percent of travelers directly and independently book travel arrangements with establishments online. Nearly half of the respondents will also go with online travel agencies and aggregators.
Channels with reduced contact will become the new norm. Majority of Filipinos are expecting tourism establishments to implement self-service processes such as contactless check-in and digital payments.
The convenience of these arrangements helped domestic travel make up the bulk of overall travel spend. In 2019, domestic travel spend accounted for around 75 percent of the industry, and with international restrictions in place, this figure is expected to go higher in the future.
Although Filipinos expressed a desire to travel as soon as restrictions are lifted, their main concern is still their health and safety. Many said they would only feel comfortable taking their trips once a reliable anti-COVID-19 vaccine or treatment becomes available, and when the situation in the country gets better.
The pandemic has raised traveler expectations on health and safety, with more than 80 percent of the respondents expecting tourism establishments to follow best practices in sanitation and health. At least 88 percent of respondents also express willingness to comply with existing health and safety protocols, such as undergoing rapid COVID-19 tests prior to departure and submitting a medical certificate before traveling.
Building travelers’ trust and confidence in the industry is vital in ensuring its recovery. The report recommends that establishments and organizations emphasize safety and be transparent in addressing customers’ concerns. It also recommends that tourism stakeholders closely collaborate with other authorities and find ways to innovate and adapt to the new normal—including digital shifts where it is needed—to help manage uncertainties about traveling.
Earlier this month, the DOT released new health and safety guidelines in the new normal to local tourism-related sectors such as hotels, resorts, tourist transportation, surfing and restaurants in anticipation of their reopening.