PHILIPPINE STAR/ WALTER BOLLOZOS

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

RESORT owners along the white beach of Puerto Galera south of the Philippine capital were expecting a boost to their revenues during the long weekend holiday after President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. made mask-wearing indoors optional.

But Typhoon Nalgae (Paeng) came, forcing visitors to cancel reservations, killing dozens and sending rescuers to search for missing victims.

“The holiday resulted in a sharp increase in bookings, but before the ink had dried on those new records, they were all swept away by the winds of the storm,” British Daniel Stracey, who manages Lalaguna Villas Luxury Dive Resort & Spa, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“We saw hope that made our hearts flutter briefly. But the slightest good news was followed hastily by the bad,” he added.

The luxury resort in the province of Oriental Mindoro, which is about an hour by boat from Batangas port, was estimated to have foregone P1 million in sales at the weekend, an amount that would have funded the holiday bonuses of its workers, Mr. Stracey said.

Thankfully though, damage on most facilities along Puerto Galera’s white beach was minimal.

Noe Lineses, who owns an online platform that organizes trips and tours to the popular beach destination, said resorts and cafeterias had prepared for Halloween parties for its visitors.

When ferry trips got canceled on Oct. 28, more than 3,000 tourists failed to make the trip to Puerto Galera, he said.

“There are many establishments in Puerto Galera that are struggling to survive due to the on and off nature of tourism nowadays,” he said in a Messenger chat. “Long weekends would have guaranteed income to many, but unluckily, the typhoon came.

The town had lost as much as P50 million in potential income due to the typhoon, Mr. Lineses said.

Both Mr. Stracey and Mr. Lineses hope that the Christmas holiday could somehow offset the losses from the typhoon.

The Philippines lies along the typhoon belt in the Pacific and experiences about 20 storms each year. It also lies in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes strike.

The Philippines’ 16th typhoon this year also affected other tourist spots including the world-renowned Boracay Island in Aklan province.

CONTINGENCIES
Beibi Balana, a member of a Facebook group on DIY (Do-It-Yourself) travel, said Paeng had brought rains to the small island as early as Oct. 27, forcing them to delay their land tour for a day and cancel all water activities.

She was one of thousands of tourists who were stranded after flights to Manila were moved from Oct. 29 to the 31st.

“Typhoons threaten itineraries, disrupting potential revenues from tourism products and services, while costs may have already been incurred due to preparations for guest arrivals,” said John Paolo R. Rivera, associate director of the Asian Institute of Management’s Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism.

“Rebooking is also disruptive especially when reservations have already been paid,” he said in a Viber message. “It messes up the system and smaller tourism enterprises may not have the ability to adjust.”

Paeng disrupted the operations of at least six airports and 78 seaports, according to a report by the local disaster agency.

More than 180 flights were canceled and only 4% of affected seaports were operational. Almost 8,000 passengers, more than 2,400 rolling cargoes and 68 vessels were stranded.

Many businesses also incurred losses after the typhoon caused brownouts. More than 124 cities experienced brownouts at the weekend.

“We cannot do anything about the Philippines’ vulnerability to natural calamities,” Mr. Rivera said. “They will definitely disrupt tourism activities to some extent. For small players reliant on tourism receipts, contingency should be available.”

Small players should have alternative sources of livelihood so they can cope when disruptions happen, he added.

The government and the private sector should also work together to make tourism infrastructure resilient to typhoons and other natural calamities, Mr. Rivera said.

“Better weather forecasting equipment should be available to generate reliable information, allowing players and tourists to make adjustments even before calamity strikes,” he added.

Mr. Marcos and his economic managers have said the revival of Philippine tourism would boost the Southeast Asian nation’s economic recovery.

Tourism arrivals in the Philippines have hit 1.7 million as of Oct. 17, exceeding the target for the year, Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Christina Frasco said earlier this month.

The tourism sector accounted for 12.8% of Philippine economic output in 2019, or about P2.48 trillion. Tourism’s economic contribution fell to 5.2% last year as most countries closed their borders amid a global coronavirus pandemic.