Philippines to hold month-long shopping sale to boost spending

Cebu Air has cut its base fare to as low as US$1.74 for over 70 local destinations to spur domestic tourism. (AP pic)

MANILA: The Philippines, home to among the world’s largest malls, will hold a month-long shopping sale next month, a move that could reinvigorate the retail sector hurt by the virus scare.

Mall operators like SM Prime Holdings Inc and Ayala Land Inc to more upscale retailers like SSI Group Inc will participate in the sale, which was announced a year ago and is part of the government’s six-year tourism roadmap.

The Philippines’ promotion comes as retail sales across Asia are weighed down by a coronavirus scare that curbed tourism and kept shoppers inside their home.

Sales in SM Prime’s Philippine malls fell as much as 20% in the first few weeks of the virus while sales in its 7 malls in China were cut by half, ABS-CBN News Channel said on Feb 14.

The government is also banking on domestic tourism to help offset what appears to be a sharp decline in international travelers, based on data from the Manila International Airport Authority.

Private consumption accounts for about 74% of the economy, while tourism makes up about 12%.

Travelers grounded

Flights to and from Manila’s airport fell 22% after the Southeast Asian nation imposed a travel ban on places hit by the virus.

International travelers saw a 16.7% year-on-year drop to 1.35 million in the Jan 25 to Feb 17 period, according to data. Domestic travelers declined 3.4% to 1.4 million.

Cebu Air Inc, the Philippines’ largest budget carrier, slashed its base fare to as low as US$1.74 for over 70 local destinations to spur domestic tourism, it said in a Wednesday statement.

It also increased seats by nearly half on key routes between Manila and popular tourist spots including Cebu, Davao and Palawan provinces.

“It’s a lost opportunity but at the end of the day, there is time to recover,” Manila airport chief Eddie Monreal said in a press briefing on Wednesday. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to recover soon.”