“HEALTH OVER WEALTH”

DOT Secretary Bernadette Puyat and Regional Director Atty. Helen Catalbas

Western Visayas regional tourism director Helen Catalbas thus summarized the atmosphere in Region 6 under lockdown between March 17 and May 28, 2020.

Catalbas told an online tourism forum on May 29 that the 1.7 million tourists in the region have generated P31.3 billion in gross receipts within March 17 to May 28, 2019.

The P31.3 billion is the bare minimum estimate of losses to the regional tourism industry for the same period this year as a result of the lockdown.

While people generally welcome the announced downgrading of restrictions to the modified GCQ on June 1, Catalbas said that the prevailing mood is “very cautious.”

Yet businesses are slowly getting back alive, Director Catalbas said, “as little by little we are narrowing the gap” between health and economic concerns.

Director Catalbas reported that a total of 5.8 million local and foreign tourists visited Western Visayas last year.

In her report Catalbas enumerated the existing tourism products portfolio in the region: agri-farming, nautical, culinary, cultural, leisure and entertainment, marine sports, MICE, pilgrimage, among others.

DOT is also gearing up for the new normal through virtual meetings and shifting to digital platform particularly for inbound tour operators and travel agents.

Besides Director Catalbas, other resource persons in the tourism forum were Director Peter Tay of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines and Chairman Erwin Narito of the United Hoteliers Philippines Inc.

The online forum moderators were Michael Herrera, founder of TurismoPH, and Barbie Atienza of the United Print Media Group Inc.*

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