The tourism industry is among the hardest hit sectors throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as it curtailed travel and leisure trips worldwide. In the Philippines, where tourism accounted for nearly 13 percent of gross domestic product prior to the pandemic, international tourism spending was estimated at P549 billion, while that of domestic tourism was at a high of P3.1 trillion.
Foreign travels into the region plummeted by over 80 percent last year while domestic tourism remains constrained by travel restrictions and reduced economic activity. The sector’s contribution to regional GDP fell by 53 percent last year, pushing mor people into poverty.
To help the struggling industry, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank has allocated $1.7 million to help in tourism recovery in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. The latest grant aims to boost inclusive, sustainable development in the sector, and help local tourism entrepreneurs, especially women and youth, adopt digital platforms to grow their businesses.
The Southeast Asia Sustainable Tourism Facility will help countries identify and prepare environmentally sustainable tourism projects and catalyze private financing to support them. ADB said this would help businesses better operate tourism facilities and delivery digital tourism services.
It also aims to aid policymakers design visas, short term rental, and other policies to attract longer-staying, higher-spending visitors and remote workers, allow more small entrepreneurs to legitimately operate accommodation services, and boost tourism tax revenues.
ADB Principal Tourism Industry specialist for Southeast Asia Steven Schipani said the projects supported by the facility will develop green and resilient urban and transport infrastructure in secondary cities to improve the tourism sector’s competitiveness, help create jobs, protect the environment and accelerate digital transformations.
The tourism industry needs all the help it can get as it slowly recovers from the pandemic and as it does, it is also presented with the unique opportunity to transform itself to be greener and more sustainable. It is now up to the countries to take advantage of these multiple opportunities that are waiting to be plucked so this critical industry can come out of the pandemic stronger and better. Hopefully our government officials involved and the stakeholders in the private sector are positioned to take advantage as we prepare for a better recovery.*