The number of foreign visitors that visited the Philippines fell 83.97 percent in 2020 due to travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said in a report on Tuesday.

The DOT said 1,323,956 foreign visitors entered the country from January to December 2020, or 83.97 percent lower than the 8,260,913 recorded in the same period in 2019.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors on board gondolas (traditional flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boats) watch a movie at the “floating cinema” in Manila, the Philippines, Dec. 6, 2020. A floating cinema was launched in a local mall as indoor cinemas all over the country are still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Image: Xinhua

The DOT said the total receipts generated from inbound tourism for 2020 registered an estimated 81.40 billion pesos (about 1.69 billion U.S. dollars), down 83.12 percent from 482.16 billion pesos (about 10 billion U.S. dollars) recorded in the same period in 2019.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the impact of COVID-19 that started to be felt in the first quarter of 2020 “was unprecedented and spared no one.”

“With the closure of borders to international tourist traffic and the imposition of quarantine measures, tourism activities ground to a halt affecting various enterprises and displacing workers,” Puyat said in a statement.

The country’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. Nearly five million workers either lost their jobs or their salaries slashed, Puyat said.

In 2019, the DOT said the tourism sector employed 5.7 million.

2020 brought enormous challenges to the Philippines. In January last year, the Taal volcano, a famous tourist destination south of Manila, erupted and led to a decline in tourism.

A staff member wearing a face mask cleans a multi-purpose bubble pod at a hotel in Manila, the Philippines on Jan. 5, 2021. The hotel will open the multi-purpose bubble pods to guests in an effort to protect them from COVID-19 infection. Image: Xinhua

In March last year, COVID-19 forced the government to impose a lockdown that came at a hefty cost to the economy. The disruption of international and domestic travel crippled the tourism industry.

The government slowly eased domestic travel as it began reopening destinations for domestic travel with health and safety protocols in place.

The Philippines, which remains under varying lockdown restrictions, now has 491,258 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 9,554 deaths.

FILE PHOTO: A vendor wearing a mask takes a nap at a market in Manila, the Philippines, Jan. 5, 2021. Image: Xinhua

Visitor arrivals in the Philippines slowly climb from a mere 5.36 million in 2015 to 8.26 million in 2019, DOT data showed.

Tourism industries contributed 12.7 percent to the Philippine economy in 2019, the Philippines Statistics Authority said. 

XINHUA | MANILA

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