FOR tourism, 2021 is a better year compared to the previous year when restrictions were stricter and vaccines were non-existent.

Just as Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat put it – the tourism industry this 2021 is manifesting a renewed hope towards recovery.

“The current tourism scenario is looking generally optimistic as we end 2021. As Alert Levels have gone down, local travel requirements were also eased. Many of our destinations now accept local tourists who are fully vaccinated, with no need to present a negative RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test,” she said.

Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed that tourism receipts from April to September 2021 reached P3.1 billion, up by 91.6 percent from P1.6 billion generated in the same period last year.

The tourism department, Puyat shared, now focuses on bringing more domestic travelers to major tourist destinations to revive tourism in the country while ensuring safety among tourists.

The Philippines is also positioned by tourism stakeholders as a country that banks not only on the safety of travelers but also its host communities as it actively vaccinates tourism workers nationwide.

As of December 24, at least 88.38 percent or 282,780 tourism workers have been inoculated against Covid-19, while the remaining 11.62 percent are waiting for their schedule.

In Davao del Norte, DOT-Davao along with the provincial tourism office has developed a new tourism circuit to entice more local tourists to participate in all tourism activities.

Apart from the pristine waters and white beaches of the Island Garden City of Samal, some of the destinations promoted by the tourism department are Agriya in Panabo City; highland and eco-adventure destinations in Kapalong and Talaingod; and ecotourism sites in New Corella and Asuncion.

“As of now, we are seeing partial recovery of the hurt the tourism has been experiencing due to the pandemic,” Davao del Norte provincial tourism officer Noel S. Daquioag said.

He also shared that construction and development are ongoing on these sites to offer new experiences to tourists under the new normal.

“The province has also prioritized the tourism industry. In fact, we poured P200 million for the development (of the industry). We want to put emphasis on tourist assistance centers, restrooms, etc.,” he said.

Daquioag also emphasized that they are also strengthening its provincial tourism and culture development plan because they want to boost the culture component of its tourism destinations.

Philippine Tour Operators Association, Inc. (Philtoa) President Fe Abling-Yu, meanwhile, hopes that the eased restrictions would continue throughout 2022.

In Davao City, currently under Alert Level 2, meeting, incentive, convention, and exhibition (Mice) events are allowed but with a maximum of 50-percent capacity.

Davao City Tourism Operations Office (CTOO) Generose Tecson said in a previous interview that they are capitalizing on Mice events to recover from the losses caused by the pandemic since March 2020.

“We are positioning the city (Davao), even before the pandemic, as a Mice magnet. We would like to continue that provided that we are strict in our protocols," she said.

Tecson cautioned that while the city permits Mice, she said these events can still be a superspreader event if guidelines and the compliance of the health protocols will not be properly observed.

"We already have the guidelines. Kailangan lang na sumunod tayo (All we have to do is follow it)," the official said.

For the complete requirements and guidelines, she said it is already posted on the CTOO official Facebook page.

'2022 optimism’

For 2022, Romulo-Puyat sees "revenge travel" manifesting across all markets of the Philippine tourism industry. And in the wake of disconnect and economic hardship brought about by the pandemic, Filipinos are likely to travel "more consciously.”

A recent research commissioned by Airbnb showed that over 80 percent of Filipinos it polled seek to travel in a way that positively impacts locals while about 76 percent want to be more conscious when it comes to familiarizing themselves with the host community and how they can make a contribution.

With no certain date yet as to when the country will open its borders for foreign leisure travelers, the DOT believes domestic tourists will continue to be the main tourism growth driver next year.

But if the Philippines reopens, she said foreign tourists can rest assured that health and safety protocols would be in place.

"The DOT yields to the wisdom of our health experts and we fully understand the need to protect the health and well-being of the rest of the country, especially now that we have started to see the light at the end of the tunnel," she said. (With reports from PNA)