As the Philippines and Haiti experiment with new freedom following decades under dictatorships, American vacationers are beginning to show increased interest in those two island nations. But early reports indicate it may be a slow awakening for tourism at both destinations.
The State Department recently advised U.S. travelers that conditions in the Philippines were returning to normal and the Manila airport had reopened. It urged caution in certain outlying areas where the Moro National Liberation Front has been active.
The department had lifted its recommendation against travel to Haiti on Feb. 15, three days after the international airport at Port-au-Prince reopened, but Americans were warned to exercise caution, avoid crowds and respect curfews.
As is often the case when governments are in transition and sudden disruptions to daily life may occur, visitors to each country should register either at the U.S. Embassy in Manila or Port-au-Prince as soon as possible after arrival.
Now, with the easing of recent political turmoil, Philippine and Haitian government tourism representatives in New York view the long-range travel picture as encouraging. They hope that more Americans will want to see developments on their respective islands firsthand. Newly appointed tourism directors in Manila and Port-au-Prince have begun preparing policies they hope will attract tour operators and visitors who bring the hard currency these economically hard-pressed countries need.
Here is a brief summary of the current outlook for travel to each area:
Philippines. An increase in the number of "walk-ins" by citizens applying for U.S. visas seems to reflect "a sudden interest in going to our country," according to G.B. Lumauig, tourism attache' at the Philippine Ministry of Tourism office in New York.
In the past few years there has been little demand for tour packages limited to the Philippines. Tour operators often have used the islands as an "add on" when preparing more extensive trips to more popular destinations such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea; Manila, the Philippine capital, simply has been included as a brief stopover.
When a bomb exploded at the American Society of Travel Agents' 1980 convention in Manila, injuring some of the delegates, the number of American visitors suddenly dropped off. (The blast narrowly missed then-president Ferdinand Marcos.)
Since 1984, the figures have risen slightly and for the past two years Americans have topped the Japanese to rate first in arrivals. Worldwide visitors totaled 890,000 last year, with 20 percent arriving from the United States. Yet hotel occupancy in Manila has been averaging only 49 to 50 percent.
Philippine Air Lines, the national carrier, has no immediate plans to offer special packages. Travcoa, based in Newport Beach, Calif., has been including Manila as a stop on its Orient tours, but decided to remove the city for the next few months. Company officials said they will continue to monitor conditions in the country before deciding whether to reinstate Manila in their 1986 packages.
Another major wholesaler of Orient tours, Travelworld in Los Angeles, had added Manila to only one of its 13 Orient tours this year because it was not considered one of the high points of the trips. The firm says it would be very responsive to requests from U.S. travel agents whose clients express interest in the Philippines, and may decide to restore stopovers in the Philippine capital when it begins preparing its 1987 packages in a few months. Both tour operators sell only through agents.
Visitors who book individual trips to the Philippines -- and plan to visit the Sulu Archipelago, a chain of islands forming the extreme southwest tip of the country -- are advised by the State Department to inquire at the American Embassy or with local officials or individuals knowledgeable about local conditions in that area. Care should be taken in traveling to any area of Mindanao affected by activities of the Moro National Liberation Front, according to State. It urges "special caution" when in the Sulu Archipelago south of Zamboanga City, scene of several incidents involving foreigners last year.
Unsettled conditions may also exist in some rural areas elsewhere in the Philippines, the department adds. Persons traveling outside normal tourist areas who seek information about their intinerary should contact the embassy.
defbox Haiti. "If the political situation calms down and there are no problems, there should be a resurgence" in tourism to Haiti, says Zelma Ramery, vice president of marketing for Caribbean Holidays, a longtime wholesaler of tour packages to the region, based in New York. Mel Roberts, vice president of sales for the company, admits the island "has not been a hot seller" in recent years but says he is "cautiously optimistic."
Apart from the more recent political demonstrations that preceded the hasty flight to France by former president Jean-Claude Duvalier on Feb. 7, Haiti tourism had been hurt earlier because Haitians were once identified as among the groups at high risk of contracting AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta have since rescinded that listing.
Caribbean Holidays' current series of tours to Haiti ends in mid-April, when a summer series will begin. The Haiti packages, whose prices vary according to hotels selected, include round-trip air from New York to Port-au-Prince, airport transfers, accommodations for seven nights (in some packages the seventh night is free), breakfasts, a cocktail party and free use of tennis courts at hotels that have them. Rates range from $380 to $769 per person, double occupancy.
Cavalcade Tours, also headquartered in New York, indicated it has been receiving requests from the trade for Haiti tours and probably will begin offering them through travel agents by early April. Its package rates will be about the same as those quoted by Caribbean Holidays, which also sells only through agents.
Other areas of the world recently have been the subject of travel advisories from the State Department, which regularly keeps track of developments in foreign countries that may affect tourists and alerts Americans to conditions ranging from lack of hotel space to the threat of violence. Among them:
Sri Lanka. While most areas of this island have been largely unaffected by communal violence, reports the department, travel to the northern and eastern provinces "remains hazardous." The southern and western portions of the island, including Colombo and environs, the major beach resorts along the southern and western coasts, and the Yala game park are considered safe. The town of Kandy in the central hill country should be considered generally safe, although there have been some disturbances in the hill country south of Kandy.
The major archeological ruins at Anuradhapura and Ponnaruwa are close to areas where Tamil separatists have been active recently, and travelers to those cities should be aware of the "high level of tension" and the possibility of indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Visitors to these areas should avoid travel after dark and must stop on command at all checkpoints manned by security forces, which have been known to fire on vehicles that ignore orders. Be extremely cautious about photographing any subjects that could be militarily sensitive. Travel to the northern and eastern provinces is inadvisable.
Security conditions in Sri Lanka can deteriorate suddenly, so all Americans should register immediately at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy (210 Galle Rd., phone 548007) to learn about changes in travel conditions after arrival in the country. Those who plan to be in areas outside Colombo should be aware there has been a recent outbreak of Japanese B encephalitis, and should also consult a physician about taking anti-malaria pills.
Peru. Responding to an increase in terrorist activity in Lima, the government has declared a state of emergency and a curfew in metropolitan Lima and Callao. The area includes Lima's international airport. Public movement is forbidden from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and persons with emergency reasons for traveling during the curfew hours must obtain a safe conduct pass (salvoconducto) from Peruvian military authorities.
Tourists arriving at the Lima airport during the curfew will receive special limited safe conduct passes to permit them to travel between the airport and their hotels. Taxi service is available from the airport. The emergency decree makes all persons subject to military/police inspections -- tourists must stop and show their passports.
Peru's other major tourist areas, including Cuzco, Machu Picchu and Iquitos, are not affected.
Turkey. Martial law is presently in effect only in the provinces of Bingo l, Diyarbakir, Ela zig, Hakka ri, Mardin, Siirt, Tunceli, Urfa and Van. There are no tourism sites in those areas. Provinces where a state of emergency exists are Adana, Adiyaman, Agri, Ankara, Artvin, Bursa, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Hatay, Icel, Istanbul, Izmir, Kars, Malatya, Ordu and Sivas. Major tourism areas can be found in four of these provinces: Ankara, Bursa, Istanbul and Izmir. Turkish officials emphasize that there are no curfews in any of these provinces and describe the state of emergency as a "precautionary move" that gives the governors "slightly increased powers."
The government action is related to continuing efforts to normalize political conditions following the election of a civilian government in 1984. (In September 1980, 67 provinces were under martial law.) Visitors can check with the American Embassy in Ankara or the consulates general in Istanbul and Izmir and the consulate in Adana to learn if any special travel restrictions apply in the listed provinces.
For additional information, or queries about other areas, contact the State Department's Citizens Emergency Center, 647-5225.