Survey respondents choose outdoor activities in well-ventilated areas such as going to the beach, hiking, and biking in their leisure travels

In a time of pandemic, with the COVID-19 vaccine not yet on the horizon, how will Filipinos be encouraged to travel locally?

Although community restrictions have been easing up in the country, local tourism numbers have yet to reach comfortable figures given the fact that there are health and safety requirements needed to be accomplished by the traveler before he or she can set off.

The result of an online survey conducted by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) shows that local tourists want a more relaxed health protocols that are standard across tourism destinations, in addition to personalized travel packages. 

The online survey was conducted from November 28 to December 30, 2020, a period when provinces and tourism destinations were opening their doors slowly to visitors but under strict health and safety protocols.

Titled “The Evolving Landscape of Domestic Travel in the Philippines: A study of travelers and tourism enterprises amidst the pandemic”, the survey gathered responses from a total of 7,243 travelers across all 78 provinces in the country, and from 108 tourism enterprises with the objective of getting their sentiments on the “new normal” of travel.

“The travel and tourism industry has been beset by myriad challenges and changes since the start of the pandemic, and through our national travel survey we have gained vital insights into the most pressing requirements and needs of both tourists and industry stakeholders. Armed with this wealth of information, we are able to determine the issues that need to be addressed as we continue to craft and implement strategies that seek to uplift the nation’s tourism industry,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

Traveler sentiments that were obtained through the survey are:

Travelling is perceived as an answer to keeping their sanity;

Travel behavior has changed thereby opening opportunities for introducing new travel products and services;

Travel and safety protocols need to be standardized;

Travelling can be personalized; and

Travelers’ preferences have evolved.

Most of the respondents perceive travel as a way to keep their sanity, hence, a priority expense that is planned for and budgeted. 

Respondents from the 31-40 and 41-50 age groups are willing to spend Php 1,000 to Php 3,500 for travelling after the pandemic, while respondents who are 60 years old and above specified a higher budget of Php 3,500 to Php 5,000. 

Survey results showed that for price-sensitive travelers, travel can be simplified by offering tourism destinations with the most relaxed health protocols, particularly those with reduced cost and frequency of COVID-19 testing requirements. 

While, value-sensitive travelers prefer taking trips that are personalized or tailored according to their needs and objectives for the next two or three years. 

Traveler preferences have also evolved, with most respondents choosing outdoor activities in well-ventilated areas such as going to the beach, hiking, and biking in their leisure travels. Additionally, respondents prefer travel with family members, with safety as the primary reason. 

Meanwhile, the main survey findings for tourism enterprises were: 

Stability of public health is perceived as the minimum requirement to accelerate the opening of local tourism;

A standardized set of health protocols and requirements are needed to promote tourist

activity;

Financial survival (cash flow) remains to be the most pressing concerns of tourism enterprises; and

Assistance in the form of advising is needed by tourism enterprises. Marketing and promotions of tourism products and services remain to be the key point of intervention, followed by financial assistance.

Puyat reiterated the DOT’s call for uniformed travel protocols across tourism destinations, which survey respondents pointed out as the top source of travel inconvenience. 

“As always, we shall be taking a multilateral approach to address current issues relating to the pandemic, working more closely with local government units, stakeholders, and local communities. Guided by the new survey results, the DOT and its partners will be able to plot the crucial next steps for the recovery of the tourism industry, creating better, more efficient and effective strategies where there is mutual and inclusive growth for all,” Puyat said. 

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