As an archipelago, the Philippines has always been a premier tourist destination. Its pristine beaches, lush greenery, and beautiful sceneries are dream destinations for many, earning various citations from travel organizations and publications all over the world.
But due to the mobility restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the Philippine tourism industry has been at a complete standstill since last year. This led EON Trust Central (ETC), in partnership with market research firm Tangere, to conduct and publish the Quick Pulse study Zooming in on the Filipino Traveler, which aims to unveil the Filipinos’ sentiments regarding travel and the reasons behind their reluctance to go on trips amid the ongoing pandemic.
Addressing the hurdles
New information on vaccines and safety protocols has not changed the public’s attitude and perspective on the new normal of traveling, according to the report. Truth be told, the constantly changing travel requirements have served as a hindrance even for individuals who live close to tourist spots.
When respondents were asked about the challenges in traveling during the new normal, more than half answered that pre- and post-travel COVID-19 testing are the top pain points. The costs of getting tested and acquiring permits are also concerns for the remaining respondents, with some of them saying that the need for numerous permits keeps them from making travel plans in the first place. These factors far outweigh the risk of exposure to a COVID-19-positive person when it comes to the respondents’ traveling concerns.
On the other hand, when asked about their sentiments on the subject, the majority expressed that fear and the need for safety are still their dominant feelings. The study notes that Filipinos have mixed emotions when it comes to the topic of traveling during the pandemic, ranging from sadness and nervousness for some to worry for a few.
The biggest reason behind their reluctance is still the possibility of catching COVID-19. Existing travel protocols also remain unclear for many, signaling the need for those in charge to refine the messaging and unify regulations. Plus, while there’s a good chance that the antibodies triggered by the vaccines could result in a lower likelihood of viral transmission, there are still a lot of concerns regarding their efficacy and their side effects, indicating the need for further studies.
Where to start?
Hesitancy exists because of gaps that are yet to be addressed, which manifest as the public’s anxiety, impressions of the protocols, and overall traveling behavior as conditioned by the pandemic.
EON Trust Central believes that getting through to people to change their behavior and perception requires creating an effective communication strategy that would address public uncertainty. Those in a position to do so should continue to help the government create protocols and guidelines that are clear, easily understandable, and convenient to follow for the general public. More importantly, stakeholders must ensure that the facts they share are true and infallible. They must also appeal to the emotions of their audience as well as build a reputation among and a great relationship with them.
“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted how we live in a shared world where our actions affect others,” says Junie Del Mundo, Chief Executive of The EON Group. “The Filipinos’ hesitancy to travel amid the pandemic is an expression of our understanding that we need to take care of each other—that until everyone is fully vaccinated, none of us is truly safe from contracting the virus.”
Once we work toward changing general behavior and perception, then we can work on reviving the tourism industry in the country. Because despite the uncertainties that still await us, there’s one thing we can expect to remain the same: the natural beauty and allure of the Philippines.
Quick Pulse: Zooming in on the Filipino Traveler is a study based on the insights gathered from a nationally representative sample of 5,000 Tangere app users. The respondents are mostly females aged 24 to 60 years old who come from the lower middle/low-income class. You may request a copy of the full report at [email protected].