THE tourism industry said it is backing a “tourism bubble” strategy to allow visitors to bypass high-risk areas like Metro Manila, after yet another lockdown cut off flight service from the capital.

“The main impact of Metro Manila’s reversion to MECQ (Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine) is as its status as the country’s main gateway,” Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jose C. Clemente III said in a mobile message Tuesday.

He added that the return of the stricter form of lockdown indicates the country’s inability to effectively deal with the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Tourism businesses, he said, need to work with the government in developing areas that allow tourists to bypass high-risk areas.

The Department of Tourism has been proposing “travel bubbles” that will eventually allow tourists from countries with low to zero COVID-19 cases to travel directly to destinations like Boracay Island through nearby international airports.

Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan were placed under MECQ from Aug. 4 to 18, the President’s spokesman Herminio L. Roque said Sunday. The lockdowns were reintroduced after coronavirus infections topped 100,000.

The Tourism department has been prioritizing domestic tourism as it restarts the industry.

Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism Research Executive Director Fernando Y. Roxas in an e-mail Friday said the domestic market is the industry’s best chance if the country is able to manage the spread of the disease.

“I don’t think there are many alternatives for the tourism value chain — other industries are also affected.  The local tourism industry can reboot the local economy, especially the rural areas,” he said. — Jenina P. Ibañez