By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

ANGELES CITY, PAMPANGA — More hotels have committed to offer as much as 50% off on their published room rates to help boost domestic tourism amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Tourism Congress of the Philippines said.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jose C. Clemente III said at least 35 properties have joined the domestic tourism fund program that was launched recently to help boost domestic tourism amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that has forced the Philippine government to impose a travel ban on China, Hong Kong, Macau and parts of South Korea.

“Out of the 35 hotels, I would say 80% of them offered the 50% discount,” Mr. Clemente told reporters on Friday last week on the sidelines of the AirAsia 2nd Business Assembly held in Angeles City, Pampanga.

The purpose of the domestic tourism fund program, he said, is to convince all hotels in the Philippines to offer discounted rates for as much as 50%.

“What it does basically is we ask hotels around the country to give special rates to customers. We were asking as much as 50% off their published rates,” he said.

“Our intent really is to give the lowest possible rates that we can. It’s for the domestic market. So far, we have about 35 properties that have joined, and then tuloy-tuloy pa rin (more hotels are joining). We are still gathering rates now from other hotels,” he said.

Mr. Clemente, who is also president of Rajah Tours Philippines, Inc., said the special rates being offered by such hotels will be valid until the last day of August this year.

He added that Rajah Tours itself is feeling the brunt of the coronavirus crisis.

“To tell you the truth, we are still in the hemorrhage mode. We are still doing damage control. We are trying to hold on to whatever bookings we had that were done before the coronavirus outbreak. We are doing our part to convince our market to continue coming,” Mr. Clemente said, noting that tourists from Europe and North America are still visiting the country.

The most affected local travel companies, he said, are Chinese and Korean tour operators as they put all their eggs in one basket.

He said local hotels should join the domestic tourism fund program as it will help them keep their businesses profitable in the current situation.

“What will they lose? Anyway, the international market is sort of staying away for now, so what do they have to lose? They have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose except for their margins,” he explained.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima T. Romulo-Puyat has said the industry could lose P42.9 billion from February to April — P16.8 billion in February, P14.11 billion in March and P11.98 billion in April.

The government wants Filipinos to visit local spots in the face of an international tourism decline because of the outbreak.

The Philippines has confirmed three novel coronavirus cases, all involving Chinese nationals from Wuhan City in China where the virus was first detected. Two of the patients have recovered and one has died, according to the local Health department.

There were 85,403 confirmed global cases of the deadly disease as of Feb. 29, according to World Health Organization data.

More than 79,000 of those cases were from China, followed by South Korea with 3,150 cases and Italy with 888.