VIRUS IMPACT. The Oriental Leyte Hotel, a four-star hotel in Palo town. Tourism business operators in Eastern Visayas are slowly feeling the pinch of the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) due to the cancelation of bookings and events. (Photo courtesy of The Oriental Leyte)

TACLOBAN CITY – Tourism business operators in Eastern Visayas are slowly feeling the pinch of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) due to the cancelation of bookings and events.

Oriental Leyte Hotel manager Anito Lanticse said in a meeting on Thursday that at least four meetings and seminars were canceled in February, along with two big events this month, all of which translates into millions of pesos in losses.

Lanticse added that aside from accommodations and event bookings, they also noticed a decline in walk-in diners.
The usual number of 60 diners has been halved after the health department confirmed the local transmission of Covid-19.

“Our online booking also dropped from 22 percent to 15 percent,” he told hundreds of tourism-related business managers gathered at the Summit Hotel here.

Oriental Leyte Hotel, located in Palo town, is the only four-star hotel in Eastern Visayas and one of the biggest hotels in the region. It offers not only accommodation but also big halls for meetings, incentives, conferences, and events.

Tour operator Ludette Ruiz of Leyte Travel and Tours said they have been experiencing cancellation of bookings since last month.

Among those that backed out was an expedition cruise ship from Germany with more than 70 passengers scheduled to visit Limasawa Island in February. There were also cancellations of local tours, according to her.

Tourist transport provider Lemuel Honor said car rentals also declined due to the Covid-19.

“This is economically bad to me, considering that I acquired these tourist vans through bank loans. I need to pay the bank every month,” Honor said.

To mitigate the impact of the virus, business owners agreed on uniform promos, packages, and discounts for Eastern Visayas that are well-publicized and coordinated.

Tourism business operators also agreed to reassure the tourist market that all service providers in the region follow the standard sanitation practice, to make them feel safe when they spend their money while visiting the region.

“We’re coming up with this uniform promo rate that the DOT (Department of Tourism) wants us to. A promo package that is attractive for domestic travelers, to encourage them to travel locally instead of going out of the country,” Ruiz said.

The offering of the tour package was in partnership with airline companies, hotels, and the transport sector.

The highlight of the tour package is the visit to Kalanggaman, an islet in Palompon town, known for its nearly 1-km. sandbar and pristine waters.

Ruiz said they will also come up with tour packages for other tourist destinations in the region.

DOT 8 (Eastern Visayas) Director Karina Rosa Tiopes expressed optimism that this problem could be handled efficiently by the region, recalling how businesses recovered after Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

“Despite the fact that we are not among the Top 10 tourist destinations in the country, we are now feeling the effect of the problem as shared by our stakeholders,” Tiopes told reporters after the meeting.

“This may be a different situation, different circumstance, but I know we can always see that light, we can always see that direction on how we can get back on our feet and show that the tourism industry in Eastern Visayas is truly resilient and determine not to wallow in worries and won’t allow the concern to rule our everyday life. We’re determined to make the most out of this.”

She cited the difficulty of quantifying the amount of losses in the tourism sector, but the cancellations on bookings, events, and decline on transport rental already show the reduction in Eastern Visayas’ tourism receipts or income for the first quarter. (PNA)