MANILA—While terrorism fears may have dampened tourists’ desire to visit the Philippines, the public and private sector are working hand in hand to ensure visitors’ safety and promote new destinations more aggressively.
Department of Tourism (DOT) Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Frederick Alegre said that to date, Secretary Wanda Teo has ordered regional directors to coordinate with all stakeholders in regions, particularly in Mindanao.
“The DOT Secretary has ordered regional directors to meet to get updates, assess the situation and most importantly secure the safety of everybody,” Alegre said in a phone interview.
Although tourism numbers are expected to decline, Alegre said that it is more important to guarantee tourists’ safety in the meantime.
“At this point, we don’t want to talk about the effect of tourist arrivals. The DOT regional heads were alerted to ensure the safety of all tourists and keep them out of harm’s way. Security forces are in place,” he added.
Recently, Palawan also suffered a blow in tourism after the US Embassy warned its citizens against traveling to the province as it has received information that some terrorist groups are planning to abduct foreign nationals.
El Nido Resorts Sales and Marketing Director Joey Bernardino said that if such was the case, it is necessary for both public and private sector to support the advisories by recommending alternative destinations tourists can opt to visit.
“Teams from DOT and TPB (Tourism Promotions Board,) are very aggressive. Our teams are out, some just came back from Russia, Korea. We have groups going out and are still selling the Philippines. There’s continued promotion from government and private side. It’s very important that we keep our presence felt,” Bernardino said in a press conference in Makati City.
Bernardino stressed the importance of online presence, especially in social media, to assure tourists that there are several Philippine destinations that are safe amid terror fears.
“People would say (the Philippines is) probably not safe but if you have a good program in social media, you can strengthen that with authentic reviews. Actual guests stating ‘I’m here in the Philippines, I’m safe. Those with social media post that they’re here in the Philippines strengthens the destination as a whole’” he added.
On Wednesday, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao island under martial law for 60 days to suppress terrorist groups from wreaking further havoc in Southern Philippines.
Mindanao is home to several tourism-rich destinations including Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, Zamboanga City among others.