CENTRAL Visayas could be heading to a dismal growth this year, with its tourism-dependent economy reeling from the fallout of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The region may have to boost other potential sources of growth during the economic downturn.
“We have to find ways to push domestic tourism and sustain our local economy,” said Kenneth Cobonpue, head of the Regional Development Council.
The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed the extraordinary depth of economic dependence of Cebu, the regional center, on foreign tourism. Covid-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus which originated in the city of Wuhan in China in December 2019.
Hotels in Cebu are suffering as occupancy heavily dips amid the plunging arrivals from China and South Korea, the city’s two biggest tourist markets.
The embattled tourism business will likely pull down the growth of the regional economy this year.
“Yes, definitely because tourism is a major growth driver for our region,” Cobonpue said, when asked if he expected economic growth to slow down this year.
Airline companies have moved to promote their domestic routes amid the slump in demand from foreign markets.
Tour operators in Cebu expect that foreign arrivals in the early months of 2020 will likely fall amid the public health scare.
The government has since imposed restrictions on travelers going to and from South Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau where infections of the deadly disease continue to rise.
Cobonpue is also worried that the impact of the Covid-19 scare might spill over to other sectors such as manufacturing and services.
“If the Covid-19 continues to spread at the rate today, economists now say there will probably be a world recession. This will have an impact not only on tourism, which is a major growth driver for our region, but eventually other businesses like manufacturing and services,” he told SunStar Cebu.
But Cobonpue said “the government can step in and provide stimulus to the local economy.”
The government has yet to release the regional economic data for 2019.
In 2018, Central Visayas grew 7.6 percent, contributing 6.5 percent to the national economic output.