THE Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 expects a decline in the number of tourists after Hong Kong advised its citizens to avoid all travel to the country following the hostage tragedy in Manila last Monday.

DOT 7 officer-in-charge Rowena Montecillo, however, said they will still contact tour operators to find out whether tourists have decided to cut trips to the Philippines, particularly Cebu.

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She said China and Hong Kong are among the top markets of Cebu.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government raised the outbound travel alert (OTA) for the Philippines to black, urging its residents to avoid all travel to the country and those who are already in the country to attend to their personal safety and exercise caution.

“The travel ban issued by the Hong Kong government is something that we expected because of the incident. But we want to show to their government that we also mourn and feel the loss of the victims,” she said.

Offerings

DOT 7 officials offered a mass and flowers yesterday to the victims of the hostage crisis.

Though they are still waiting for the statement from the national office, Montecillo said she is positive that the Hong Kong government may soon consider lifting the travel ban as the hostage crisis was an isolated case.

She said DOT will do its best to show and promote Cebu as a safe place for tourists.

Montecillo said they will also appeal to local government units and tour operators to ensure the safety of tourists.

Local tourism players, however, said they are confident that the strong ties between

Philippines and China will negate whatever negative impact the incident will have on tourism.

“The tragic hostage-taking will have a tremendous impact in tourism but the seed of Chinese and Filipino ties would not be easily uprooted. The hostage victims were our Chinese friends and this year our Chinese arrivals have been steadily increasing,” said Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry tourism committee chairperson Milagros Espina.

In the first quarter of the year, more than 1,950 Chinese visitors arrived in Cebu through 15 charter flights from Shanghai and Nanjing in China, through aggressive promotions by DOT during the Chinese New Year in February.

Be Resort general manager Garry Garcia said that while the incident will have a negative impact on the international standing of the Philippines, it will be in the short term.

More peaceful

Eric Ng Mendoza of the Mandaue of Chamber and Commerce said the advisory by Hong Kong will directly affect the National Capital Region but Cebu “might be spared” because it is known to be more peaceful.

Business leaders, however, said they are confident the government can still win back the confidence of tourists.

“The national government will have to take bold steps in countering any future incidents like this and once again promote safety measures for our visitors,” Mendoza said.