AN estimated 1.6 million tourism-related jobs in five Asia-Pacific region countries were lost last year from the “catastrophic” business disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study from the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Of the said figures, almost half came from the Philippines, where employment in the tourism sector contracted by 28 percent—significantly higher than the 8 percent in the non-tourism sector.
“Workers in the tourism-related sector working zero hours per week rose two thousand-fold [affecting 775,000 workers],” ILO said in a statement on Thursday.
The rest of the displaced tourism workers come from Brunei Darussalam, Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam.
ILO Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa said the trend could persist next year unless measures are taken to address it.
“Even with countries in the region focusing heavily on vaccinations and designing strategies to slowly re-open borders, jobs and working hours in the tourism-related sector are likely to remain below their precrisis numbers in Asia–Pacific countries into next year,” Miyakawa said in a statement.
Aside from job losses, ILO also expressed concern over the deterioration of the quality jobs in the tourism sector.
“Women workers appear to have been particularly hit with an increased concentration of women carrying out food and beverage serving activities, the lowest-paid jobs in the sector,” ILO said.
To address the situation, ILO Senior Economist and lead author of the study Sara Elder said the government must step in and provide much-needed aid to struggling tourism establishments.
“Recovery will take time and affected workers and enterprises in the tourism sector will continue to require assistance to replace lost incomes and preserve assets,” Elder said.
In the Philippines, the Department of Tourism enrolled several measures under its National Employment Recovery Strategy (NER) to help the ailing local tourism industry.
The measures include issuance of world trade and tourism council safe travels stamp and safety seal certification; waiving fees for DOT accreditation; and financial assistance to tourism enterprises.
For its part, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will be transitioning tourism workers to other sectors through employment facilitation initiatives like job fair and training.
In a Viber message, Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique R. Tutay told the BusinessMirror they hope these initiatives will help in local tourism’s recovery next year.
“With the easing of alert levels, more tourism-related establishments will gear up for recovery,” Tutay said.
She noted that in some areas like in Clark, Pampanga, tourism establishments are already hiring additional workers since they now operate at 90-percent capacity.
However, she was quick to add that the establishments would likely focus on domestic tourists for now.
“In this period of recovery, we encourage domestic tourism while there are still limitations for foreign travelers to the Philippines. We cannot lower our guard even if Covid cases have gone down,” Tutay said.