Lim: Hong Kong tourism bigger loser in hostage row


The Hong Kong tourism industry may have sustained bigger losses than its Philippine counterpart from the August 23 Manila hostage crisis, Philippine Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said Monday.

Lim said in a radio interview that more Filipinos have decided not to go to Hong Kong than Hong Kong residents who canceled their trips to the Philippines as a result of the incident.

“If you look at it, more Filipinos are not going Hong Kong at this time, than Hong Kong residents who are not coming to the Philippines. And Filipinos comprise a bigger share of the tourism pie in Hong Kong than Hong Kong residents’ share of the Philippine tourism pie,” he said in an interview on dzXL radio.

But Lim did not elaborate or give figures on the number of Filipinos who canceled their trips to Hong Kong.

A separate report also dzXL radio Monday said flights between Manila and Hong Kong, which used to average 300 passengers, presently hold about 80.

But the report also said that other than a gag order on the Philippine consulate there, things were “back to normal” for Filipinos in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong issued a black tourism alert for the Philippines shortly after the Manila hostage crisis ended on a bloody note. The black alert discouraged all travel to the Philippines.

On August 23, eight Hong Kong tourists were killed along with their hostage-taker, dismissed Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, in the 11-hour standoff at the historic Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

The incident also took its toll on relations between the Philippines and China and Hong Kong.

On the other hand, Philippine consul general to Hong Kong Claro Cristobal advised Filipinos to postpone their trip to Hong Kong if they still have doubts about their security there.

“Many Hong Kong tourists canceled their booking due to the crisis and due to the travel advisory. We understand that and there is not much we can do about it. But there are Filipinos who also put off their trips to Hong Kong because they feared possible backlash,” Lim said.

Lim also said tourists from Hong Kong and China account for only nine to 10 percent of the Philippine tourism industry. Besides, he said the incident occurred with only one-third of the year left.

“If one-third of the year is left, only three percent of our tourism will be affected if ever,” he said.

No mounting of tourism blitz

At the same time, Lim said the government is not keen on mounting a tourism blitz on international television outlets such as Cable News Network and British Broadcasting Co., at least for now.

He said that aside from the lack of funds for the blitz, international news channels are still airing footage of the Aug. 23 incident.

“We lack the funds to reverse the negative impression. International news channels like CNN and BBC still broadcast news about the incident. And we will need hefty funds to reverse the negative image,” he said.

Instead, he said the government can only shore up its tourism through participation in international travel shows, transparent diplomacy through the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the quick settlement of the ongoing investigation into the incident.

He added the DOT already took steps to heal the wounds by organizing candlelight ceremonies and memorial services, including an inter-faith activity in Manila last August 31.

“We cannot restore our image solely through a publicity blitz, especially because international TV is still airing footage of the incident. What we need now is to finish the ongoing investigation and hope the travel advisory against the Philippines will be lifted soonest,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lim maintained the Philippine tourism industry is not too bad off, saying two of his undersecretaries had been invited to tourism-related activities in China last week.

While he did not elaborate, he said one left for China last Aug. 25, and the other left last Sept. 1. Both undersecretaries have returned from their respective meetings, he added.

Lim also said his department will draw up a marketing strategy for the country through a two-day workshop starting Monday.