BRUTALLY FRANK: Why there is a boost of local tourim despite the COVID19 pandemic?

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By Francis Baraan IV

Since April 2018, our family’s hotel property in Dasol, Pangasinan was the only upscale resort in Tambobong Beach. Today, however, Sirom Beach House will share that distinction with Dasol Beach Villas, a soon-to-open luxury resort, which is nestled on top of a cliff overlooking the serene Dasol Bay.

Monette Jimenez and Allan Kiel Goyenechea, the jetset owners & upcoming hoteliers of Dasol Beach Villas, only set out to buy a beachfront lot in the province & build a simple vacation house to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. They wanted an antidote to the daily stresses of a pandemic-stricken life of rote routine: work, home, work home—minus the international travel due to strict quarantine protocols. But after meeting my brother Dr. Amadeus Baraan and I, and after staying at Sirom and seeing how well it was doing since opening it to the public again, they have become more excited to turn their one-hectare lot into a popular local destination. Tourism may have crashed during the first few months of quarantine but as soon as restrictions were lifted, we saw a sudden surge in the demand for local travel again.

And I offer the following reasons as to why there is a boost of local tourism here in the Philippines (and possibly local tourism abroad):

1. PEOPLE DESIRE MOVEMENT. Traveling has always been and will always be part of our lives. Since international travel seems like a distant memory, local travel (especially road trips) will take centerstage during the pandemic. It also feels safer to be driving your own car these days. We all want to be in control of their surroundings as soon as we step out of our homes. Flying still requires too many rituals and nightmare scenarios that may be unappealing for travelers.

2. PEOPLE MISS THEIR OLD LIFE BACK. People like Monette and Allan, including myself, want some semblance of our old life back. It is a natural human response. I know that we are asked to stay home but you cannot quarantine the human mind and body too long. That leads me to my next reason.

3. CLICHÉ AS IT MAY SOUND, MENTAL HEALTH IS WEALTH. Can you imagine being stuck inside the four walls of your condo for months? Yes, we can take that quick trip to the nearest mall or the park to fend off cabin fever but we all long to have an actual getaway or escape. Nothing is more liberating than going to a place where you can take off your mask. Without a doubt, a face without any covering is the new luxury during this pandemic.
4. RATES HAVE DROPPED. Lately, we have seen tempting offers from big hotel chains like Shangri-la to small boutique properties. If your dream resort slashes their rates down to almost 50 percent, it might be hard to pass up that chance. With flexible rebooking policies, digital vouchers and all-time low accommodation packages, you may find yourself planning a
that future trip already.

5. SUPPORTING LOCAL as a LIFESYTYLE. When it comes to consumers, there has been an interesting shift in our mindset and behavior. Social media has somehow managed to bring us all together to support each other’s businesses. There is a burgeoning sense of the local community. It has become an unexpected albeit welcome movement and advocacy for some Filipinos. As a result, traveling local has become more meaningful for us. I think that even if we had the choice to travel internationally later, we now make that conscious and firm decision to travel in our country first.

Perhaps, if there’s any silver lining the COVID19 pandemic has brought to the country, it is that people are starting to discover and re-discover their own backyard. The moment we decide to RESPONSIBLY — the operative word being responsibly — hit the road again, we are not only traveling for our sake. We travel for the sake of our people, our economy and this nation. In this day and age, I could not think of a better way to spend my hard-earned peso. Now, where should I head next?