Joselito Gabuya of Cebu Tour Guide in the popular Underground River in Palawan, Philippines.


Former Dubai expat on tourism in world with Covid-19


DUBAI – As countries begin easing movement restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, a former Dubai expatriate turned tour guide says tourism as we know it will never be the same.

“Experts said it would take at least three years for tourism to go back to normal. When it does, I will surely go back to being a tour guide. I love the job,” Joselito Gabuya, 53, of The Cebu Tour Guide, told

Gabuya moved back to his hometown in Cebu, Philippines in 2011 to work as a licensed tour guide after spending four years in Dubai.

Business was booming with tourist arrivals at an all-time high, until coronavirus came. The impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry has been stark, with half the world’s population under lockdown and air travel dropping by more than 70 percent, according to FlightRadar 24.

On top of that, 96 percent of the world’s destinations are currently impacted by travel restrictions and precautionary measures, according to the World Tourism Organization.

But Gabuya is confident that when the coronavirus pandemic calms, travellers will start trickling in.

“Definitely there will be fewer tourists at the start and we will have to adjust to a new normal in the way we travel,” he said.

Social distancing and avoiding crowded places will be the new norm, making cautious travelers gravitate towards staycations and remote destinations. Airfare may also be cheaper, although the cost of certain services will go up because of sanitation measures.

This is welcome news for Gabuya, who has spent nearly a decade touring people in the exotic Philippine archipelago that features remote islands and isolated natural wonders.

His favourite is Palawan, whose clear blue waters have attracted celebrity fans like Brad Pitt and whose shores have featured in Bourne Legacy, The Beach and the James Bond film The World is Not Enough.

How tourism industry professionals are coping

Meanwhile, industry professionals like Gabuya have looked for ways to diversity their livelihood while tourism remains slumped. Others have turned to webinars. Gabuya has started a YouTube project and is also setting up an online course for his new martial arts technique.

Gabuya, who is also a martial arts expert, had developed his own technique called Combat Kinematics System, or Comki, in the past decade. It had taken the sidelines while he was enjoying his full time job as a tour guide.

He said, however, that his skill helped him stand out from other guides as he gave clients an added layer of security during their travels.

“It’s been an advantage; I help secure my tourists by acting as a bodyguard during their travel,” he said. “I also share martial arts knowledge to tourists who are interested in learning self-defence,” he said.

He hopes his online course will help him reach more people in sharing his new martial arts form.

“We have to survive. Many have been left unemployed,” he said. With Cebu City under lockdown, the licensed tour guide no doubt misses interacting with guests and showing them the country’s beautiful hotspots.

He believes that global travel will not be the same and that when borders do reopen, a more mindful approach to travel will likely be what tourists will look for. CLM/Expat Media


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