Overseas tourists are staying away from the beautiful resorts of the Philippines in their droves, scared of making bookings and then losing their money.
When the resort of Boracay was closed in April for a six-month clean-up, authorities cancelled pre-booked trips and also refused to refund the payments.
The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) found interest was low when it sent a group on a tourism mission in Europe earlier this month aimed at promoting the Philippines as a tourism destination.
ECCP president Guenter Taus said concerns followed President Rodrigo Duterte administration’s decision to shut down Boracay to address the island’s environmental issues.
“It was clearly verbalised when we were there," Taus told the Phillippines Daily Enquirer newspaper. "They said if they (the Government) can close one island, they can close any island, any time,” he said.
Taus said it had become harder to pitch the Philippines to tour operators, especially given the experience of some who couldn’t get their money refunded because the island closure was deemed force majeure.
Force majeure refers to a clause in contracts that removes liability for unavoidable catastrophes that interrupt the expected course of events, restricting participants from fulfilling obligations, according to the world’s largest financial education website Investopedia.
“But it’s not force majeure because it was closed by the Government,” Taus said.
“You’re a tourist operator and you have 500 people booked and then they tell you, ‘Sorry. The island is closed. Get lost and you don’t get your money back'.”
ECCP, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, is still trying to convince tour operators in the European Union to look at other parts of the Philippines, despite their concerns.
Many of the tourists headed for Boracay and other Pinoy destinations opted instead for popular destinations in other Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, Tuas said.