The country is unlikely to hit its target of five million tourists this year due to damage caused by twin disasters, a tourism official said Saturday.
Domingo Enerio, chief of the Tourism Promotions Board, said that super typhoon Yolanda and the 7.1-magnitude earthquake, both of which struck Visayas, caused devastation in tourist areas, which resulted to many cancelled reservations.
Enerio added that “both the 2013 target and the 6.8 million target for 2014 may have to be revised in the face of the damage.”
“We have been beset by huge challenges: the earthquake and typhoon. It was a double whammy for the Philippines,” he told Agence France-Presse.
The chief warned, however, that although tourist arrivals until September have already reached about 3.6 million, the disaster will affect tourism in the last three months.
The earthquake, which killed more than 220 people, shattered historic churches and tourism facilities and damaged roads in the central islands of Cebu and Bohol, both popular tourist destinations.
Less than a month later, Yolanda swept through the central islands, leaving more than 7,500 dead or missing and devastating whole towns including popular hotels, beach resorts, surfing and dive sites.
Worldwide news coverage of the destruction has discouraged visitors, Enerio said.
“These resorts are in that particular area which is very well known in international markets. It is not just one destination. The whole country’s image has been affected,” he added.
The government and private sector on the other hand are encouraging tourists to visit other attractions that were spared from the disasters.
Enerio for his part said the government is sticking to its target of 10 million tourist arrivals in 2016, up from about 4.3 million in 2012.
“We can come back with a very strong campaign that will inform the world about how beautiful our country is. It still has warm and welcoming people,” he said.