Undoubtedly, one of the most affected trade during the COVID19 pandemic in the country has to be the tourism industry. Airports closed, hotels closed, shopping malls closed, retail shops closed, spas closed, casinos
closed, restaurants closed, themed and water parks closed — the list goes on.
In the center of this catastrophe, lies on all important
but vexatious segment of the Philippines’ tourist
market — the Chinese. For being number 2 in terms of tourist arrivals — next to the Koreans — in 2019, the 1.74 million visitors was expected to overtake the Koreans and hit the 2 million mark this year if not for the COVID19. More than one fifth or 21% of our arrivals of 8.26 million in 2019 are Chinese and combine them with the Koreans, we are locked down (pun intended) with 45% visitors just from these two North Asian countries.
The Chinese are such formidable but yet obnoxious (not all, of course) travelers and big spenders that they
are contributing so heavily to our ASEAN neighbors’ tourist trade as well. In 2019, eleven million of them visited Thailand ringing up the cash register with a boggling $17B. In Singapore, 3.6 million Chinese spent $3.2B. Cambodia – oh, so reliant on them – attracted 2.4 million Chinese (38% of 5.3 arrivals) with $4.35B in tourist receipts contributing 12.7% to
the country’s GDP.
Malaysia recorded 3.26 million Chinese out of total arrivals of 20.1 million; In 2019 Vietnam, inspite
of a strained hostile relationship, still welcomed
5.81 million of their next door neighbors, up by a
hefty 16.2% over 2018 while Indonesia with gem
destinations like Bali and Borobudur attracted over
Further afield, the more affluent Chinese also
flooded (another pun intended) the canals of Italy by
contributing 6 million tourists to the country’s total
arrival of 62.9 million in 2019. In Australia just 1.4
million China men and women spent $11.9 B and
contributed 26% to the total tourist expenditure. Ah,
these are the ones Secretary Berna Puyat and our
industry leaders are wishing for.
One cynic in Venice complained that with 6 million
undisciplined and unhygienic Chinese roaming
THE CHINESE ARE COMING
along the canals of Venice, no wonder the water level
has risen and the town flooded. Ah, the price one has
to pay. Shockingly there are videos of our Chinese
mga kapatid (brethen) spitting and defecating along
the Venetian streets and mistaking the Grande
Canale for a Roman bath with wife giving him a body
scrub!! Remember the proverb : When in Rome, do
what the Romans do!
Watching an Aljeereza documentary on Chinese
tourists reinforces and validates my perception
of Chinese tourists. To us with a Western culture,
they are loudmouthed, uncouth, unhygienic, rude,
boisterous and aggressive.
On the other side of the coin, America is probably
the only country that registered a dip in Chinese
tourist arrivals. From an all time high of 3.17 million
arrivals in 2017, it fell to 2.84 million in 2019 and
yet Donald Trump claims that he and Xi Jinping are
great friends. He’s a great guy; you can trust him. I
like him. He likes me. I think; you can ask him.
Put under the microscopic lab test for virus,
behavioral sciences and sheer curiosity, what sort
of a specie do we have here arriving at our airports
by the thousands each day? This satire speaks
volumes, gushing out of the mouths of our tourism
stakeholders, who for one reason or other are not
writing this column.
Just what sort of Chinese tourist do we need? Yes,
I know the filthy rich. That’s the problem, you see.
They are rich and “filthy” at the same time.
This lock down has created an ideal opportunity to
set new parameters to target a new gene of Chinese
tourists. Can we, for the love of Binondo, propose the
1. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, all tourists
and POGO personnel from China must possess a
valid health certificate from a Philippine or World
Health Organization recognized health authority or
institution based in China before boarding flight to
2. All tourists and POGO personnel and
accompanying spouses from China should have
a valid and recognized medical insurance policy
before entering the country with a Philippine
medical institution covering any form of illness —
from testing, treatment and hospitalization up to
cadaver repatriation (batteries not included!) — if
3. All tourists and POGO personnel must be adorned
with a smart tracer chip to detect their movements
within the country with built-in video capabilities.
Those on honeymoon are exempted; just produce
recent marriage certificate authenticated by the
Chinese Peoples Liberation Party chief.
4. For incoming tourists, minimum stay in DOT
accredited hotels and resorts must be five and a half
days.Why half day? Hotels charge a full day rate for
your half day, you understand. No extension request
to be entertained.
5. All hotel, tours, meal rates and airfares prior to
COVID19 will no longer be honored. Guys, please,
please. This is the time to raise your rates. Believe
me these Chinese can pay big bucks. You see them
make a beeline dash to the nearest Chanel, Louis
Vitton, Burberry, Jimmy Choo and Mang Inasal
stores from your hotel as soon as they check in. With
the exception of the last store, they will probably be
spending at least $5,000.00 in every store. And your
room costs a miserable $65.00 a night? Come on.
6. How to justify the hike in rates, you may ask?
Simple, or else you have no business to be in the travel
business. Look around at some of your PHILTOA
Follow scrupulously what our Inter Agency Task
Force (IATF) has been lambasting us for weeks and
a) Social Distancing. Now that you can’t sit patrons
and passengers close to each other, you have to
charge double or triple. One airline seat for the price
of two. Same thing in restaurants – eat on one table,
pay the price for two tables. Tagaytay tour? That will
cost you a fortune. You see we have to close the whole
island for you. Only two tourists allowed a day but I
tell you its great this time of year. If you are lucky, the
volcano will erupt.
b) Wear Mask. Wash Hands. Use Sanitizers.
Disinfectants. “Sus, who is going to pay for all this?”
my hotel manager friend asked. Your guess is your
guest! No more discounts for rooms please.
Besides, hotels probably have to reconfigure their
rooms to twins; possibly installing dividers to
separate the wife from the husband or putting a
mattress in the bathtub. And can you imagine the
redesigning of personnel uniforms for 600 staff in all
departments? Who is going to pay for all this? Your
guess is your guest.
c) Observe curfew. From 10 pm to 6 am the
following morning, all hotel rooms, restaurants,
bars, spas, karaoke joints, casinos, and toilets will
be on total locked down. No one will be allowed to
leave. The last three will be on overdrive. Before you
step out, please do not forget to pick up your copy of
Philippine Star or Daily Inquirer. If you are wearing
yellow for the day, you will be handed the Inquirer;
you will not have a choice. All others will receive the
Philippine Star. By enforcing the curfew and the free
newspaper, guess who will have to pay for this?
d) Observe Quarantine. Produce a 14 day package in
all hotels and resorts. Arrive Manila, check in hotel
and avail of full board in-room service packages.
Sorry, no Mang Inasal or Joilibee deliveries allowed
unless your stay is in the SEA Games Village in New
Clark City or a 2Go vessel in the Port area in Manila.
Long staying guests, oh my.
All of the above should allow us to revoke, rescind,
recall, replace, repeal, refute, rebuff, reject and revise
old unprofitable practices and contracted rates
(reason? Force Majeure!) when dealing with the
Chinese or any other nationality for that matter.
Do not fret about losing the market. China without
a siopao and siomai doubt loves us and will not leave
the Philippines. Take for instance, the Spratly and
Paracel islands. They are here to stay for a long time. I
wonder if our new neighbor, Mayor Wuy You-kum of
the Spratlys will invite me for dim sum soon. If they
do, remind me to bring a dozen of Mang Inasal’s PM2
and a copy of the 1982 United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea and the International Tribunal
Ruling as a home owners’ association dos and dont’s
and as a neighborhood map. Caviteños will soon be
welcoming their new neighbors too at Sangley.
Domestic flights by Cebu Pacific and Philippine
Airlines may soon start operating between Sangley
and Sprately since we are so good friends. – so say
both our Presidents.
The future looks bright. For the coming winter (flu
season), would you believe over half the population
around 600 million Chinese will need summer
homes from November 2020 to February of March
of 2021? They need the hot summer heat which
only the ASEAN countries, Bahamas, and the
Southern Hemisphere can offer. The sun and the
heat, according to Donald Trump, will eradicate the
COVID19 virus. He said it, we did not.