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Published on : Wednesday, November 27, 2013
The country was recently devastated by Typhoon Hayian. The situation is not yet back to normal and the whole world has come forward to help in the rebuilding process. Meanwhile the Philippines tourism board is urging people to visit the country, stressing that their visits will have a direct effect on helping to rebuild lives and keep locals in jobs in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. While the scale of the devastation caused by the worst typhoon ever recorded made front-page news all over the world, the tourist board says media coverage has given the false impression that the entire country is out of bounds.
“Ninety-seven per cent of the country is unaffected,” says Richard de Villa of the department of tourism at the Philippines embassy in London.
An advert emphasising the importance of tourism to the economy and showing photographs of resorts across the country that escaped the impact and are open for business has appeared in various UK travel magazines.
“Tourism accounts for 8 per cent of the GDP and 2.9m jobs, almost eight per cent of the total employment,” says de Villa. “If you stop tourism it will have a more negative impact on the local communities because of the role in our overall economy.”
Just days before the typhoon hit, the tourist board launched a UK marketing campaign to
coincide with the first direct flights from London to Manila in 15 years. The Philippines Airlines service flies from Heathrow five days a week. The campaign – “It’s more fun in the Philippines” – was aimed at further boosting tourism from the UK, which was already up year on year by 8% between January and June 2013.
“Overall we are looking for a total of five million visitors in 2013, a growth of about 12%,” says de Villa.
Tour operators to the country are reiterating the message that the country is open for business and reassuring clients that the country is not only safe to visit but in desperate need of visitors.
Worldwide Dive and Sail, which operates across the country and sends nearly 50 people a month on scuba diving trips, was quick to reassure clients, via its website and on social media, that the majority of tourist areas are unaffected.
Right after the storm Worldwide Dive and Sail offered one of its yachts as a supply vessel
ferrying aid to the island of Malapascua, and Guiuan, east of Tacloban, the first town to take the full force of the typhoon. The company is now operating all trips as normal, and owners Mark Shandur and Frank Van Der Linde, both of whom lived through the 2004 tsunami, in Sri Lanka and Thailand respectively, have pledged to donate 50% of the cost of each booking to the relief effort until the end of January.