Opinion

More fun in the Philippines

More fun in the Philippines

After the disruptions caused by Taal Volcano’s phreatic explosion last month, the country’s travel industry was hit by a second and worse whammy: the emergence of coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

Players in the travel and tourism industry estimate their losses to reach P20 billion if the disruptions last until March. At this point, however, it looks like the contagion is bound to persist way beyond the first quarter of the year. COVID-19 continues to spread in other countries and the World Health Organization is advising governments to brace for local transmission of the virus that has killed 1,380 people mainly in China as of Friday and infected nearly 50,000 others.

With international travel plans on hold in many countries, tourism-related businesses and downstream enterprises in the Philippines are struggling. Industry players warn that if the crisis persists past midyear, smaller enterprises may be forced to close shop, putting people out of jobs.

People can help prevent such a disaster by boosting domestic tourism. Even as large tourism-related gatherings have been canceled, people can still explore domestic travel destinations, enjoy the sights, eat in restaurants and buy local products. There are interesting places to explore right in Metro Manila.

Contributing to domestic tourism does not mean ignoring the threat posed by COVID-19. Proper hygiene such as regular hand washing as well as cough etiquette must be observed. Health officials have stressed that airborne transmission of the virus has not been reported. As protection against droplet transmission, ordinary face masks, tissue paper, handkerchiefs and alcohol must be on hand in case a mild irritation induces sneezing or coughing. People who are immunocompromised should take extra precautions.

The COVID-19 scare is likely to affect tourism during the country’s peak travel season – summer particularly Holy Week. Those who normally spend the season overseas can instead plan trips within the country. It will help an ailing industry, and it could show how it’s truly more fun in the Philippines.

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