The Bruneian

It’s Safety First for Indonesia and the Philippine­s as They Lure Back Tourists

- THE BRUNEIAN

Aiming to lure back internatio­nal tourists to their shores, Indonesia and the Philippine­s are brushing up on offerings to visitors while making sure the sector recovers safely.

Like their neighbors in Southeast Asia, the two BIMP-EAGA countries are lifting quarantine rules for fully vaccinated internatio­nal travelers. They want to revive their travel sector after the industry stalled in 2020 in the wake of the pandemic. In the BIMP-EAGA subregion alone, arrivals plunged 76% and tourism receipts shrank 79.1% to $6.2 billion.

Now, Indonesia and the Philippine­s are cautious in allowing tourists back in, making sure health protocols are in place to protect both tourists and industry workers and prioritizi­ng quality over quantity in the kind of travelers they welcome.

Health protocols

“Things are definitely looking prospectiv­e although we need to still be very cautious. We will take incrementa­l baby steps. We want to make sure that this is going to be sustainabl­e. It’s going to be gradual,” said Indonesia Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno at the Asian Developmen­t Bank’s third Southeast Asia Developmen­t Symposium (SEADS) held 16–17 March.

At the virtual forum, which may still be viewed online, he said Indonesia continues to monitor COVID-19 cases ahead of the G20 Summit in November which the Southeast Asian country is hosting. “We want to make sure we don’t make any slight room for error. We need to make sure that the pandemic is handled and we keep the number of cases low.”

Testing and tracing continues to be the focus, he said, which government does through the Peduli Lindungi or “care to protect” app. The app helps government in contact tracing and relies on community participat­ion to track people’s location. Users will be notified if they are in a crowd or in a red zone, which is an area or village with residents infected with the virus. The app also serves as a vaccinatio­n registry so it may be used to present vaccinatio­n certificat­es to authoritie­s.

The Philippine­s has also prioritize­d putting in place health protocols to keep travelers and tourist workers safe.

In her keynote speech at SEADS 2022, Philippine Tourism Secretary Bernadette RomuloPuya­t, said the industry’s safe recovery is part of the country’s tourism response to the pandemic. This entails implementi­ng guidelines that ensure tourism stakeholde­rs comply with the protocols and precaution­ary measures set by the World Health Organizati­on.

Efforts of the Philippine­s were rewarded with the Safe Travel Stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council, a global grouping of tourism stakeholde­rs from both the public and private sector. The Safe Travels Stamp was created for travelers to recognize destinatio­ns and businesses around the world that have adopted standardiz­ed health and hygiene protocols.

Puyat said the Philippine­s has also fast-tracked the vaccinatio­n of its tourism workers, with 95% of its target already inoculated. In key destinatio­ns, which include

Coron, El Nido, Puerto Princesa, and San Vicente in Palawan, and Davao City in Mindanao—all part of BIMP-EAGA—100% of tourism workers have been vaccinated. Booster shots are also currently being rolled out.

Revamped offerings

Both Indonesia and the Philippine­s are also tweaking offerings and shifting toward sustainabl­e tourism.

Uno said Indonesia is moving away from mass tourism and is now targeting longer-staying tourists. It is also promoting ecotourism and sports tourism as wells as nature and culture to tourists. “We’re moving away from quantity. We’re focusing on quality and sustainabi­lity.”

Steven Schipani, principal tourism industry specialist at ADB’s Southeast Asia Department, has urged Southeast Asian countries to consider targeting longer-staying tourists because they tend to spend more on locally produced goods and services, which has positive economic knock-on effects. Increasing the availabili­ty and consumptio­n of local products by fewer but longer-staying visitors can also shorten supply chains and reduce negative environmen­tal externalit­ies—two critical factors for building destinatio­n resilience and sustainabi­lity.

Puyat said the Philippine­s is also working to make tourism more sustainabl­e. She said it is conducting carrying capacity studies with other agencies and studying conservati­on financing measures in nature destinatio­ns. It also wants to raise the number of internatio­nally recognized heritage sites and is working with ASEAN in including Philippine tours in nature-based tourism packages.

She said the pandemic provided the government an opportunit­y “to rethink tourism for the future” as it draws up the sector’s 6-year plan. “The new plan must inspire a visitor experience that is richer, deeper, and more authentic while at the same time, more competitiv­e, and more Filipino.”

She said the tourism department is working with ADB to help communitie­s transform toward resilient, inclusive, and sustainabl­e tourism. This entails helping micro, small, and medium-sized enterprise­s in the sector widen their reach through online marketing, expanding sustainabl­e consumptio­n and production campaigns, and raising the skills capabiliti­es and quality of their products.

ADB has just set up a facility to help Southeast Asian countries shift to sustainabl­e tourism.

The Southeast Asia Sustainabl­e Tourism Hub aims to help countries develop and finance innovative tourism projects, build destinatio­n management capacity, and provide knowledge solutions that align with the ADB Strategy 2030 and the Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Goals.

 ?? ?? Indonesia and the Philippine­s have reopened borders but are making sure health protocols are in place to protect both tourists and industry workers. Image: ADB
Indonesia and the Philippine­s have reopened borders but are making sure health protocols are in place to protect both tourists and industry workers. Image: ADB

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