MANILA, Philippines – The local tourism industry is still reeling a year after the Luneta hostage crisis that scared away Hong Kong tourists from visiting the country’s different destinations.
Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon said the tourism industry posted $12 million in foregone revenue as Hong Kong travelers continued to shy away from the Philippines since August last year.
Despite efforts of the government and the private sector to negate the impact of the Luneta incident, Bengzon said the downtrend in the number of Hong Kong visitors has remained irreversible.
“The arrival (from Hong Kong) is still down and we believe that the decrease is still tied with the Aug. 23 bus hostage that led to the imposition of the black travel alert against our country,” he said.
Bengzon explained that the black alert prevents Hong Kong travel agents from selling package tours, thus only those who arrange their own trip can visit the Philippines.
In September 2010 or a month after the hostage taking incident that resulted in the death of eight Hong Kong nationals, Bengzon said arrivals from Hong Kong posted a 17 percent reduction. The figure further went down by 30.7 percent in October last year and then dropped by another 19.5 percent the following month.
According to Bengzon, the market briefly recovered from December to January but went down sharply again by 29.8 percent in February when the Hong Kong coroners report came out.
“Since February, the downtrend continued with a recorded 24.9 percent decline in March, 13.4 percent in April then 30 percent in May and 29.9 percent in June,” the tourism official disclosed.
As a result of the continuing decline in arrivals from Hong Kong, Bengzon said the local tourism industry also posted some $12.04 million in possible earnings.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has been negotiating with the Hong Kong government and quietly meeting with Hong Kong travel agents in an effort to lure back Hong Kong visitors.
Bengzon added that the DOT is now preparing for the holding of security training and familiarization tours for Hong Kong travel escorts and media as agreed upon with the Hong Kong government.
“The idea here is to provide the participants, mainly travelers and media, to see the actual situation in the Philippines and that it is safe, enjoyable and absolutely no reason why foreign visitors should not visit here,” he pointed out.