‘Tourist arrivals down due to COVID-19 outbreak’

Philippine airports have lost about 20 percent or 322,000 international and domestic passengers in three weeks since January due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Manila International Airport Authority reported Wednesday.

After the government imposed a travel ban to China, Hong Kong and Macau in a bid to contain the virus, the international tourist arrivals from Jan. 25 to Feb. 17 decreased by 16.74 percent or 272,006 from the figures recorded during the same period in 2019.

The Philippines posted 1,352,692 international arrivals from Jan. 25 until Feb. 17, slightly lower than the 1,624,698 last year.

Meanwhile, domestic travel fell by 3.42 percent, as the country recorded 1,406,876 arrivals this year, down from 1,456,705 in 2019.

Speaking to Palace reporters, MIAA general manager Eddie Monreal said the losses will be bigger if the Philippines did not lift the travel ban on Taiwan on Feb. 11.

Monreal said that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has already directed airlines to replace canceled flights from countries covered by travel ban with domestic flights.

“There’s still time to recover and I hope we will recover soon,” Monreal said.

TSA, an agency of the US Department of Homeland Security, has authority over the security of the traveling public in the US.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific has reduced its year-round low fares across over 70 domestic destinations in support of government initiatives to spur domestic tourism to alleviate the impact of travel restrictions caused by the spread of the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19). This is on top of promotional seat sales for key destinations the carrier has been running since late last month. 

Starting today (February 19), year-round low fares of Cebu Pacific will sell for as low as P88 (base fare)—even for travel within the next few days. Routes with reduced fares include those originating from Manila, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro (Laguindingan), Davao, Iloilo and Zamboanga.

On top of the fare reduction, Cebu Pacific has also ramped-up capacity across key domestic routes by an average of 44%. Seats were increased across flights between Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Iloilo and Bacolod; as well as between Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod and Iloilo. These will be implemented either by an upgrade to larger-capacity aircraft or additional flights. 

“We are one with the government and fellow tourism stakeholders during this challenging time. Through this increase in the supply of seats and fare reductions across our domestic route network, we hope to encourage Philippine residents to travel and explore the country,” said Candice Iyog, Vice President for Marketing and Customer Experience of Cebu Pacific. 

The DOT has been coordinating with airlines, hotels, resorts and other tourism stakeholders to come up with measures to “arrest and to cushion” the slowdown in tourist arrivals due to the risks from COVID-19. These initiatives include airline seat sales and packaged promotional vacations. The DOT is also launching the first-ever nationwide “Philippine Shopping Festival” to showcase the country as a prime retail destination in terms of unique finds, diversity of brands and shopping experience.

“We remain committed to promoting the best of the Philippine festivals across a more global audience through our Fiesta Fun Fest campaign, on top of initiatives that magnify the fun travel experiences the country has to offer.”

The reduced fares and additional capacity will be made available across all booking channels of Cebu Pacific, including partner travel agencies, its website (, or through the official mobile app.

Topics: Tourist arrivals , Manila International Airport Authority , COVID-19 , travel ban
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