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More Chinese look to the Philippines for post Covid-19 holiday travel

Preference for open-space beach destinations like Boracay and Bohol noted

As soon as this pandemic is over, or once everything that many people need—or want—to do is allowed like travel, for instance, expect more people to flock to the Philippines like the Chinese.

According to the China Philippines Travel Sentiment Survey, which sought to provide a metric of Philippines’ travel potential post COVID-19 for hotels and tourism stakeholders, many Chinese, or about 61% of respondents, will most likely go to the Philippines within 2020.

Bill Barnett

Aside from Manila, globally popular beach destinations such as Boracay, Bohol and Cebu were among the top choices, with their appeal further enhanced by the Covid-19 self-isolation and social distancing hangover protocols.

The China Philippines Travel Sentiment Survey is a consumer survey conducted among over 1,000 respondents in top-tier cities in China by hospitality consulting group C9 Hotelworks and Delivering Asia Communications.

Jesper Palmqvist

Post crisis resumption of international travel is a key economic issue for the Philippines, where tourism accounts for around 12.7% of GDP. While domestic staycations are likely to be a short-term cash flow strategy for hotel and tourism establishments in the coming months, the reopening of the overseas market is critical to stabilize the sector.

South Korea and China accounted for nearly half of all international visitors to the Philippines in 2019, and mounting prospects are likely to see intra-regional travel coming back online for the remainder of the year.

Tim Hallett

Other noted trends in the survey showed that 82% of early demand was from independent travelers and not tour groups, with almost 30% surveyed preferring a lengthier five-day stay. Also, Chinese travelers are increasingly looking at other digital booking channels like Alibaba’s Fliggy and WeChat aside from Ctrip, a Chinese provider of travel services.

David Johnson, CEO of Delivering Asia Communications weighs in with “hotels’ strategic planning cycles as part of the recovery process are out the window. Fast-to-market digital strategies are the best way the industry can adapt quickly to an evolving global travel landscape.”

David Johnson

Summing up key report findings, C9 Hotelworks Managing Director Bill Barnett said the new norm for travel and hotels of social distancing should be about physical distancing. “The challenge is to address the heartbeat of hospitality which is social connections. Given the brand DNA of the Philippines is ‘it’s more fun,’ how this can transpose to travel experiences of international travelers is an important issue that needs to be addressed.”

A free webinar was also conducted during the reveal of the survey result where industry experts shared valuable insights in relation to the survey. Cyndy Tan Jarabata, CEO and President of Tajara Leisure & Hospitality, said that the Philippines should open slowly. “We need to get out of the lockdown first, lift the travel ban slowly, could be domestic then short hauls for international travelers. It’s about taking baby steps because no one knows what’s really going to happen.”

Cyndy Tan Jarabata

She adds that all the major carriers in the country understand the risks and believe they can focus first on low-risk areas. “They may not fly yet in full capacity but bottomline, they need to start. Same goes as well for the hotels. We really need to start somewhere.”

Jesper Palmqvist, Area Director Asia Pacific of STR, which provides premium data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights for global hospitality sectors, said there are enough measures already in place, health-wise, for things to work and so people will go back to resorts or hotels, for example. “We’ve seen it work in China and Korea. There are those who can quickly adapt, and coupled with operational efficiency, it can work until everything goes back to normal.”

Tim Hallet, Consultant for Hospitality and Lifestyle Real Estate, NAI RCL, a property development consultancy firm, when asked about his reaction to the higher preference for beaches than urban destinations and how can people be inspired to travel again, shared that it is also about lifting the ban first. “The Philippines will be lucky because more international airports will open in the provinces and other islands in the future. Plus, it’s all about making people feel comfortable to fly. We also need to leverage on digital communication to tell people about all the health protocols to be undertaken.”

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