Boracay remains a top destination for local travelers according to the survey (photo by Toti Arcibal Saluna OneLoveBoracay FB)

The recovery of the country’s tourism industry will most likely rely on domestic travel with Filipino travelers going to destinations closer to home and spending less amid lingering health concerns caused by the pandemic, according to results of the recent survey released by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

“Philippine Travel Survey: Insights on Filipino Travel Behavior Post-COVID 19” was a survey on the pandemic’s effects on domestic and international tourism and on Filipinos’ travel behavior in the new normal.

It was conducted last May among over 12,000 respondents across the country. It is also a joint project of the DOT, the Asian Institute of Management Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism, and Guide to the Philippines

DOT released the report to various tourism stakeholders in a webinar on June 29. 

Apart from domestic leisure travel leading the recovery of tourism in the country, the report also presented the following key insights:

  • Majority of travelers expect a reduction of their income and travel budget;
  • Health and safety remains the primary concern of travelers;
  • Travelers prefer reduced-contact activities once leisure travel restrictions are lifted;
  • Travelers prefer online and digital channels for convenience and reduced contact; and
  • Travelers plan to travel close to home.

The survey is a data-driven effort of the DOT and tourism stakeholders to restart the local travel industry, which has been gravely affected by community quarantine restrictions and social distancing protocols.

“We believe in a collaborative approach to recovery,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat. “The survey, which was distributed online, sought the sentiments and concerns that respondents have concerning domestic travel in light of the pandemic, in order to provide insights to tourism enterprises to better prepare, respond, and serve guests and tourists again.”

The survey found that domestic travel will lead the recovery of the Philippine travel industry, with 77 percent of respondents expressing their willingness to travel to local destinations once restrictions are lifted. 

More than half of the respondents also look forward to travel for leisure or vacation, even in the absence of a vaccine against COVID-19.

Popular local tourist spots, especially beaches, are expected to see a surge in visitors. 

Boracay, Siargao, and Baguio top the list of destinations to visit when travel is permitted again. 

Filipinos also prefer to travel to destinations closer to home.

The majority of the respondents also prefer activities they deem “safe” with limited face-to-face interaction. 

Top travel activities that are high on their minds are beach trips, road trips, and staycations at 69, 54, and 41 percent, respectively.

Domestic travel will be the main priority as fewer people are likely to travel internationally in the near future. This is due to reduced incomes and travel budgets in the light of the pandemic’s impact on the economy.

Travelers prefer digital transactions

Travel plans are also largely going digital, as 72 percent of travelers directly and independently book travel arrangements with establishments online. Nearly half of the respondents will also go with online travel agencies and aggregators.

Channels with reduced contact will become the new norm. Majority of Filipinos are expecting tourism establishments to implement self-service processes such as contactless check-in and digital payments.

Health and safety, as expected, a top priority for travelers

Respondents expressed a desire to travel as soon as restrictions are lifted, but their main concern is still their health and safety. Many said they would only feel comfortable taking their trips once a reliable anti-COVID-19 vaccine or treatment becomes available, and when the situation in the country gets better.

The pandemic has raised traveler expectations on health and safety, with more than 80 percent of the respondents expecting tourism establishments to follow best practices in sanitation and health. 

At least 88 percent of respondents also express willingness to comply with existing health and safety protocols, such as undergoing rapid COVID-19 tests prior to departure and submitting a medical certificate before traveling.

The report recommends that building travelers’ trust and confidence in the industry is vital in ensuring its recovery. Establishments and organizations are recommended to emphasize safety and be transparent in addressing customers’ concerns.

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