Illustration by ARIANA MARALIT

The future of travel is a long way off, but the Department of Tourism (DOT) is off to a good start.

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Bullish as ever in recovering from an economic downturn due to a worldwide confinement, the DOT and its marketing arm Tourism Promotions Board hosted a Facebook webinar called “The Future of Travel” for the benefit of local tourism players.

DOT Sec. Berna Romulo-Puyat sees this as a way to help stakeholders and travelers understand the adverse effects of Covid-19, through the global outlook of the sector’s leading representative, the World Travel and Tourism Council, and the how the globally unified “new normal” can propel the local landscape back up in the sky. “After all, there is more to tourism than just counting the number of arriving tourists,” she says. “We are in the business of selling destinations so communities will thrive. We market adventures so people will be employed. We promote culture as a way of preserving our heritage.”

According to the panelists, the recovery process follows a roadmap—collaboration between private and public sectors, domestic first, regional later. Drawing a conclusion from the webinar, it seems like DOT is doing it right. Sec. Berna has been taking this cue one segment at a time by holding Zoom online workshops for tourism stakeholders and travel agencies and mobilizing establishments in the country.

The DOT also shifts its “focus on what is viable,” a principle highlighted by Craig Smith, president and managing director of Marriott International-Asia Pacific, by realigning strategies, priming domestic flights, prioritizing staycations over leisure, and helping local tourists feel more secure in their country, even if it means shutting down hopes for foreign travel, which has seen a sustained, positive trajectory for 10 consecutive years.

The government sector is also helping the tourism and hospitality workforce through protection and market liquidity, a moratorium on the collection of accreditation fees, sweeper flights for stranded tourists, and lobbying with DOLE for cash assistance.

The New Normal
The “new normal” isn’t merely a dive into uncharted waters, but it is, in fact, the execution of stricter regulations that have been swept under the rug to make room for a fast-paced lifestyle, especially in tourism establishments that witness people come and go every hour. The industry, however, should prepare for a change in the way people will behave from here on.

Although a large percentage of the desire to travel is here to stay and somehow overpowers a crowd exercising restraint, the remainder should never be overlooked.

In her keynote address, WTTC president and CEO Gloria Guevara Manzo said that the psychological aftermath of the pandemic would give birth to five-year worth of travel insecurity, which could be partly blamed on inconsistent protocols.

Learning from the past is one way to rebuild this trust—calling for reapplication of principles for recovery from past crises such as the 2008 financial crisis and the SARS, MERS, and Ebola outbreaks. The process is centered on a globally coordinated implementation of unified effective standards and meaningful action plans across every touchpoint and destination, so would-be travelers need not be unnecessarily inconvenienced by the new set of safety and health protocols.

Prior to this engagement, the DOT has been establishing a set of precautionary measures in accordance with WTTC, WHO, and CDC guidelines for each sector such as hotels, transport services, MICE venues, malls, restaurants, and establishments governed by the DOT. These encompass integration of advanced technologies such as contactless payment, addition of medical components before and after the discovery of a vaccine, guidance to cleaning and sanitation team for all areas, social distancing in queues and reception, and information signages throughout the hotel.

Source: Manila Bulletin (