Typhoon Haiyan jeopardises Philippines tourism plans

Published on : Saturday, November 16, 2013

typhoon-hong-kongThe destruction reflects the damage to human habitation in general and the tourism industry in particular in many typhoon-hit parts of the Philippines since the category-5 super typhoon struck on Friday last. Hundreds of tourists have been stranded for days by the storm, which has killed thousands of people and levelled the coastal city of Tacloban.

On one side, the Anika Island Resort faces a glittering stretch of azure sea. On the other three, it faces the remains of homes and coconut palms minced by wind into the white sand. The hotel is the only one of 32 to avoid demolition by Typhoon Haiyan in Santa Fe, an idyllic tourist town on Bantayan island flattened by one of the world’s biggest storms.

The scale of the storm and its carnage have made for a week of international headlines, frightening away tourists across central Philippines and triggering mass cancellations at resorts, though the record-breaking typhoon struck only six of the country’s 7,107 islands.

Resorts at major destinations such as Boracay, Palawan, Cebu and Bohol, however, have seen cancellation rates of 30 to 40 per cent since the storm hit, said Cesar Cruz, president of the Philippine Tour Operators Association in Manila. “The cancellations are still coming in,” he said.

Just three days ago, more than 400 tourists from 26 countries were stranded at Palawan alone, turning the scuba-diving centre with its dozens of gorgeous islands into a terrifying travel nightmare. Many were evacuated. Tourism is very important here. It’s the only income. In some ways, local tourism has been lucky. The ferries that run to the mainland were back in operation within two days of the storm, taking the remaining weary tourists with them.

“It’s like people are thinking all the Philippines is gone. If you look at the international media that is the impression you get,” Ramon Jimenez, Philippine Tourism secretary, told Reuters. “But tourists who were meant for one place have been diverted to another and most of this has been successful.” However, bringing them back will be a challenge.

Tourism is a growing business in the Philippines, where the number of visitors climbed to 4.3 million last year from 3.9 million the year before. It generates about 5.9 per cent of the fast-growing £156 billion economy. The government has set an ambitious target to more than double tourist arrivals in the next three years to 10 million. Typhoon Haiyan undoubtedly makes that harder.

“It might temper the trajectory a little bit,” said Jun Neri, an economist at the Bank of the
Philippine Islands. “But it should be able to bounce back in the latter part of the first half of next year.” He expects some of the billions of dollars in reconstruction that awaits the Philippines to offset tourism losses. German-based CEDIM Forensic Disaster Analysis has estimated the typhoon could cost the country as much as £12 billion in reconstruction.

Food aid is trickling through to the people, but so far no shelter or reconstruction material has arrived for more than 6,400 displaced families. The destruction is so complete that the structure is totally zero and there is nothing to reconstruct with.


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