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Terror warnings blamed as foreign visitors cancel trips to the Philippines

Could a recent drop in tourist arrivals turn into a drought?

Tourism companies are reporting that foreign visitors have begun cancelling trips, particularly in the Central Visayas region.

The news comes after Abu Sayyaf’s foiled kidnapping raid on Bohol island last week, and numerous travel advisories from overseas governments.

Among the reported cancellations were 500 tourists from Japan, who were planning to visit a five-star hotel in Cebu. Alejandra Clemente, chairman of Rajah Tours Philippines, said they would have spent some 30 million pesos in the country during their stay.

Ms Clemente recently wrote to Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo saying the advisories “are starting to take their toll” on the Philippine travel industry.

She also said that the recent clashes in Bohol had led to the cancellation of bookings from not just Japan, but also the US, Europe and elsewhere.

“If this deteriorating situation is not addressed immediately, it may adversely affect the flow of tourism arrivals into the country,” Ms Clemente wrote in her letter.

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She also suggested that the Department of Tourism (DOT) should invite representatives of the industry for urgent discussions on the ongoing situation. “The government and private sector need to act fast to arrest this very alarming situation. I will be more than happy to help organise the private sector to meet with you,” she said.

Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre said DOT was taking the letter from Clemente seriously and was now closely coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to address the issue.

“DOT assures travel agencies that we are coordinating with the proper authorities that these travel advisories will not happen again,” he said.

The US, UK, Australia, Canada and Korea have already issued travel advisories for its citizens to be extra cautious when traveling to Central Visayas because of recent events.

Mr Alegro said that region-specific advisories were unwarranted, as they affect the whole country. “It is unfair to declare travel advisory in the country because it affects the entire country. We want to remind the other countries that we are an archipelago, which means we have lots of other areas where their citizens can visit.

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“You can choose another area that is readily available for your citizens. It is safe in the Philippines,” he said.

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