Tourism losses hit $250m

by Jeremiah F. de Guzman

The local tourism industry has incurred $200 million to $250 million in opportunity losses because of canceled tours from Europe, after the blacklisting of Philippine carriers by the European Union, Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said.

Durano told the Manila Standard that travel agencies were having difficulties marketing Philippine tourist spots, especially if tour packages include domestic air travel.

He said European agencies had also declined to provide insurance benefits in travel packages in the Philippines, especially those that involve air travel.

Tourist destinations like Boracay and Palawan have become less popular because they have no international airports and only local carriers banned by EU are landing in these spots, Durano said.

He added that Cebu, where Mactan International Airport is located, has now become a more popular gateway than other local destinations through sea travel.

The blacklisting of local carriers in European airspace resulted in the cancellation of tours from the continent and limited the activities of European tourists still interested in the country, Durano said.

The Tourism Department earlier expressed alarm over a number of European tour cancellations after the blacklisting.

“Major European travel operators from Germany, UK and France have regretfully informed us their booking cancellations,” Durano earlier said.

The department has urged the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to work out measures to lift the restriction on local carriers, saying local tourism would suffer losses if tour cancellations continued.

Data show that arrivals from European countries grew 11 percent year-on-year in January. UK tourists topped European arrivals in January with 7,837, up 18 percent on year, followed by Germany with 5,161, 0.6 percent; France 2,537, 11.9 percent; Sweden, 2,048, 15 percent; and Netherlands, 1,579, 12.4 percent. Arrivals from Denmark rose 3.5 percent to 1,401; Austria, 1,249, 17 percent; Spain, 912, 8.7 percent; and Belgium, 763, 25 percent.

Last month, the Philippines, along with Sudan, was included in the 13th update of the EU’s list of airlines prohibited in the community due to “safety deficiencies” of the country’s aviation system.