The COVID-19 pandemic has kept people from traveling, but now that things are slowly getting back to normal, they’re more than willing to splurge on trips again to make up for being stuck at home for the past two years. But there’s always a reasonable cap on the cost of a day in the sun, as a group of local tourists on an island in Bohol recently demonstrated when they cried ‘too expensive’ after being charged £26 100P for lunch, including 900P for bananas.
The breakdown of food prices in the Facebook post that went viral: abalone (2,500P), soup fish (1,800P), kinilaw (3,000P), grilled fish (2,500P), scallops (3,000 P ), oyster (P3,000), squid (P2,500), lato (P800), baby squid (P1,500), sea urchin (P2,300), bananas (P900), soft drinks (P1,300), beer (P1,000 ). The post elicited not only shocked reactions but also testimonies from other tourists confirming that, indeed, food was expensive on Virgin Island, a sandbar a few meters off the coast of Panglao in Bohol. Others said the amount was reasonable as there were 13 people in the party with an average of P2000 per person, half the price of a buffet in a five star hotel. In their defense, vendors on the island said the food was expensive because they sourced their ingredients from the mainland, as well as the high cost of fuel and commission for the boatman. The local mayor acknowledged that the food was “a bit overpriced” and temporarily banned vendors from the island and restricted the place to tourist visits only.
This incident nevertheless highlighted the need to regulate prices and establish reasonable pricing standards, as Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco herself said in a statement. This would involve coordination with local governments and the Department of Trade and Industry, as well as frontline tourism workers and stakeholders.
Excessive prices, predatory commercial behavior and many other scams are nothing new in tourism all over the world. In Thailand, where the sector normally accounts for around 12% of GDP, the government periodically issues warnings against scams. Recognizing the importance of tourism to the country’s economy, Thailand has also established a Tourism Police Bureau to provide assistance to travelers when needed and ensure that their travel experience is not spoiled by tourist traps. .
The tourism industry in the Philippines, on the other hand, still has a lot of room for growth and many improvements to be made, the main one being to make domestic travel attractive to Filipinos by making it more affordable relative to the cost of going. in neighboring countries. . Even foreign tourists find travel to the Philippines to be more expensive than to other Southeast Asian countries, such as Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The main reason for this is accessibility – because the country is an archipelago, interconnectivity is quite a challenge and a plane ticket to the islands can be expensive, especially in high season. The lack of accommodation options also discourages potential tourists.
Frasco has previously highlighted the need to invest in infrastructure to improve connectivity and accessibility to tourist sites. She also laid bare plans for developing domestic tourism: capitalizing not only on the beauty of the country’s natural resources, but also on local talent and products, including clothing and food. But there is a problem if even food, an essential part of the tourist experience, is not affordable. A common complaint among travelers to the country is inflated tourist prices in major draws like Boracay, Palawan and now Panglao. As one travel blogger wrote, “Remember the Philippines is a wonderful place to visit, but it’s just not as cheap as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam, so that can be done on an extreme budget.” Even domestic tourists, who have somehow kept the industry alive during travel bans, need not be put off by the unaffordable cost of food and accommodation in their own country.
Tourism is heavily influenced by word of mouth. News like the Virgin Islands’ overpriced food is not helping attract tourists, especially in the aftermath of a pandemic that has crippled the tourism sector. Frasco herself admits that while the DOT recognizes the challenges faced by tourism-related businesses and establishments that are only beginning to recoup pandemic losses, she believes that “due consideration should always be given to the overall experience of tourists, whether maintaining the quality of accommodation, achieving a certain level of service or ensuring the reasonable price of products.
Tourism is also a shared responsibility – this period of recovery from an economic downturn is certainly not the time to be greedy. Stakeholders from government, from business owners to tourists all play a role in the growth and development of the sector to make it more attractive and competitive with other Asian countries. He should not be bothered by, among other things, overpriced foods that leave a bad taste in the mouth.
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