Mindanao conflict, poll violence keep tourists out of RP—travel agents

By DateLine Philippines

MANILA–Lingering conflict in Mindanao and the possibility of more election-related violence are keeping foreigners out of the Philippines more than the present global financial crisis.

This was the assessment of a group of travel agents and operators, even as they stressed that the next President should prioritize the tourism industry as an important revenue-generating sector.

Jojo Clemente, chairman of the Travel Tour Expo recently launched by the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), said that past leaders merely rendered “lip service” to the tourism industry and failed to recognize tourism as a major revenue contributor.

“We have barely scratched the surface,” Clemente said, adding that despite this drawback, “the Philippines is benefitting a huge amount from the tourism industry.”

Expressing optimism on the increase of tourism revenues, Clemente said travel agency operators hoped that the May elections would not be marred by violence.

“We are hoping the elections will be a non-event unlike in the past,” he said.

Clemente admitted the Maguindanao massacre last year caused a serious dent in the number of tourists coming to the Philippines, particularly those traveling to Mindanao.

Paz Alberto, PTAA president, said that even as ticket sales for overseas trips dipped 25% as a result of the global financial crisis, it was able to recover as early as January.

Alberto said this was further proof of the resilience of Filipinos in the face of global financial turmoil.

He said ticket sales from Filipinos traveling to favorite Asian destinations like Hongkong, Singapore, Bangkok and Malaysia have began to pick up at the start of this year.

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