I am sure March 2020 has been a month like no other in the lives of almost everyone in Bohol.It has been for us!
As senior citizens, my wife and I are now at home under curfew, while her tourist accommodation business in Alona is effectively in hibernation!
We remain thankful though that the Provincial and Municipal Governments have acted decisively in instigating the community quarantine measures and, at least for now, are hopeful that the COVID-19 coronavirus will not spread significantly here.
So, what will the future hold for tourism and particularly for micro-enterprises operating within Bohol? I’m sorry, but my take on this is not at all optimistic. Quite frankly I see little chance of the tourism sector significantly reviving this year 2020.
We might have a stuttering restart on domestic tourism sometime within the last quarter of 2020, but there are likely to be few, if any, international visitors.
Guest usage of accommodation micro-businesses here in Bohol normally follow a cyclical pattern with the high season running from mid- December to the end of May. January, February and March were always the most profitable months as they include the peak holiday periods of New Year, Chinese New Year and sometimes Easter.
This year, however, everything stopped dead immediately after Chinese New Year! In normal years, the low season starts in June and runs through to mid-December usually generating enough income at least for micro-businesses to do some refurbishment work and generally to break-even financially. I cannot see this happening in 2020 though.
Businesses only did well in January and February, and now all are in a loss-making mode as owners still must pay for essential services even when closed.
For Bohol to have tourists arriving again in the future, we first will need our airline, fast-ferry and passenger-shipping services to return. Total shutdowns in countries all over the world have led to most airline corporations stopping virtually all of their flights.
Here in Philippines, our three domestic airlines are following suit. Sadly, without assistance from their individual governments, many international and domestic airlines will fail/collapse. Almost all have borrowed heavily and have either purchased or are currently purchasing large numbers of new fuel-efficient aircraft.
Now though they have little or no income from which to pay services and their lenders – a sure recipe for financial insolvency.Our fast ferry companies perhaps are similarly suffering, while the slower passenger/freight shipping companies somehow must keep going by only transporting freight/cargo. What percentage will be up and running again when the restart eventually comes remains to be seen.
The overriding issue of course, will be whether the potential tourists themselves in the future will actually have sufficient money and want to travel again if and when the pandemic eventually passes. I am sure most will find the current shutdowns to be very expensive thereby minimizing the funds available for any future holidays.
Also, those with more money are likely to delay visiting faraway tourist areas until such a time that the virus threat is seen by themselves to have totally passed. We might therefore eventually restart tourism again in Bohol with a small trickle of visitors, but there will be no flood! Also we must realistically expect that the individual Islands within the Philippines will eventually open again for in-comers at different times, and that their LGUs for some time will be reluctant to allow normal passenger movement which could restart the problem all over again.
The situation on the international tourism front is certain to be even more problematic. China seems already to be over the worst of the pandemic there, and South Korea, Japan and Taiwan look likely also to get through it within a few months from now.
If and when they do eliminate the virus within their boundaries, do you really think that their Governments will allow their citizens from the outset to visit other countries which might not be deemed 100% safe? I seriously doubt it. I would think therefore that the future strategies of foreign governments will be to only allow domestic holidaying at the beginning, while delaying permission for external tourism to start until there is no real risk of re-infection by returnee tourists and visitors.
In conclusion, I feel certain that tourism in the world is unlikely to be the same for some time to come. For those working from home for central, provincial and municipal government, there cannot be any tourism at least for another 3-6 months.
May I respectfully suggest therefore that you concentrate planning efforts on future gradual start-ups of domestic tourism initiatives in Q4 2020. If we are really lucky though, international tourism will really only start around Christmas / New Year.I hope I am wrong, but…
Stay safe everyone! Let’s first win the local virus war!!