By Jenina P. Ibañez

THE TOURISM INDUSTRY expects P20 billion in revenue losses as tourist arrivals from China plunge after the new coronavirus outbreak, Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jose C. Clemente III said on Monday.

“The arrivals for January and February are being affected at the moment — possible until March,” he said in a phone interview.

He said the estimated revenue losses are based on the drop in Chinese tourist arrivals from January up to March as it affects hotels, tour operators, restaurants, among others.

In the first half of 2019, the local tourism industry earned P245 billion in revenues, or 17.57% more than the first half of 2018.

The Philippine government on Sunday expanded its temporary travel ban to the entirety of China and its territories Hong Kong and Macau as deaths from the coronavirus continue to rise. The ban includes foreigners from those areas, and those who have visited the areas within 14 days.

Tourists from China made up more than 20% of arrivals in the Philippines last year, as the country’s second-biggest tourist market after South Korea.

Out of a total of 7.48 million tourists in the Philippines in the first 11 months of 2019, 1.63 million visitors were from China, according to the Department of Tourism. There were 1.79 million tourists from South Korea.

The industry is also experiencing cancellations from South Korean and Japanese tourists, but Mr. Clemente said the industry has been able to retain bookings from those coming from the United States and Europe.

Wala pang substantial number of cancellations. There have been very few, but we have been able to retain them after assurances that we are imposing health guidelines,” he said.

To make up for the losses, Mr. Clemente said they are working with industry partners such as hotels and airlines to offer lower rates for the domestic market.

“Once the situation is controlled we might be able to recover some of what we’ve lost at least in the first few weeks of 2020,” he said.

China declared more than 17,000 coronavirus infections, and more than 350 deaths — exceeding the number of deaths from the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003.