Business & Economy

Sustainability and ‘bubble groups,’ Asia’s plan to recover EU tourism

Madrid, Jan 21 (EFE).- Tourism figures in Asia and the Pacific are still 65% below 2020 levels and 94% lower than before pandemic, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), but industry leaders in the region hope that “bubble groups” of tourists as well as sustainable and secluded destinations can help attract European visitors.

It is a strategy adopted by India and the Philippines, whose representatives at the International Tourism Fair (FITUR) in Madrid outlined proposals to reinforce secure tourism in areas far from big cities.

“The Philippines has been doing its part to improve its services capacities, especially in terms of health and safety measures, so that one is a paramount concern that we assure to all the visitors,” Gerard O. Panga, the Philippines tourism attaché to Europe, told Efe on Friday.

Such measures have been recognized by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) with their ‘Safe Travel’ seal of approval.

In addition to the traditional lure of nature, sun and beach getaways, the archipelago has now added outdoor tours “in corridors or clusters for international visitors” and travel ‘bubble groups’ to its agenda as a step prior to lifting all travel restrictions, which could happen “in the next month or even weeks,” he added.

To test its security measures and tourism infrastructure, the Philippines is already piloting the admission of international visitors in tightly controlled ‘bubble groups’ to film television programs, news reports and cover sport competitions.

For the country, made up of more than 7,000 islands, the recovery of European tourists is essential.

Europeans comprise roughly 15% of all visitors to the Philippines, and “bring prestige, as they are the ones who stay the longest and spend the most,” Panga said.

The UNWTO’s global scenario indicates that international tourist arrivals could grow by between 30% and 78% in 2022 compared to 2021. These percentages are still far below pre-pandemic levels and depend on the emergence of new variants.

India’s FITUR proposal is focused on “places far from the cities” with a strong emphasis on “safety and hospitality,” Sanjay Soni, head of development at Incredible design, which is representing the country’s image at the fair, told Efe.

“India has been an example and it’s an incredible place to visit,” he added. “We are representing primarily Karnataka in the south and also Madhya Pradesh in the center.

“During Covid most of the travelers are trying to look at places far away from each other. So, India offers a huge amount of destinations very distant from each other, distant from the cities.”

Karnataka has the second highest number of nationally protected monuments in India and is home to 25 wildlife sanctuaries and five national parks, while the state of Madhya Pradesh, considered India’s “tiger state” as it has the country’s largest population of the big cats, combines cultural heritage and nature.

“Governments have to send a message. We have to start living with the Covid, we do not have to be afraid. (That is the) message that FITUR has sent to the whole world,” he concluded.

The 42nd edition of the fair kicked off Wednesday and brings together some 107 countries and around 7,000 firms in the Spanish capital Madrid.EFE


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