MANILA, Philippines - Amid the numerous travel advisories, tourists have started canceling trips to the Philippines particularly in Central Visayas.
Among those who canceled were 500 travelers from Japan, who made reservations at a five-star hotel in Cebu and would have spent about P30 million in the country during their visit, according to Alejandra Clemente, chair of Rajah Tours Philippines.
Clemente wrote to Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo last Monday, saying the advisories “are starting to take their toll” on the Philippine travel industry.
There has been no response so far from Teo.
Clemente said the recent clashes between government troops and the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol have led to the cancellation of bookings from major markets in Japan, the United States and Europe.
“If this deteriorating situation is not addressed immediately, it may adversely affect the flow of tourism arrivals into the country,” Clemente told Teo in a letter last Monday.
Clemente expressed her apprehension on behalf of the private sector concerning the tourism industry.
She said the Philippines appears to be a dangerous place for tourists because of the recent situation in Central Visayas and has put the country in a negative light as a tourism destination.
Clemente suggested to Teo that she invite stakeholders for a dialogue to determine the actual situation in Central Visayas and how to counteract the adverse effect of the travel advisories.
“(The) government and private sector need to act fast to arrest this very alarming situation. I will be more than happy to help organize the private sector to meet with you,” Clemente said.
Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre said the Department of Tourism (DOT) is taking the letter from Clemente seriously.
He said they are now closely coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to address the issue.
Alegre added the DOT is sensitive to the travel advisories issued by different countries as it might affect the tourism industry in the country.
“The DOT assures (travel agencies) that we are coordinating with the proper authorities that these (travel advisories) will not happen again,” Alegre said.
A number of foreign governments had issued advisories against traveling to Central Visayas in particular, citing the threat of the Abu Sayyaf.
Alegre said the US, Australia, Canada and Korea have already issued travel advisories for its citizens to be extra cautious when traveling to Central Visayas because of the reported presence of terrorist groups.
Recently, some 500 Japanese nationals bound for Cebu cancelled their trip reportedly due to the terrorist threat. Alegre did not confirm or deny the report.
But he cried foul over the advisories being issued by other countries on travel to the Philippines.
“It is unfair to declare travel advisory in the country because it affects the entire country. We want to remind the other countries that we are an archipelago, which means we have lots of other areas where their citizens can visit,” he said.
Alegre stressed other areas in the Philippines are affected every time a travel advisory is issued.
“You can choose another area that is readily available for your citizens. It is safe in the Philippines,” he said.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told the DOT not to worry about the travel advisories of other countries as these won’t hurt the Philippine economy.
Diokno said the advisories would not generate any losses in the economy.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza also said foreigners have nothing to worry about with regard to their security in the Philippines.
Dureza gave assurance that security forces are on top of the situation and are prepared for any contingency.