November 21, 2017, 4:54 am
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Tourism as a success story

DESPITE being unable to hit its primary visitor arrival target, the overall growth of the tourism industry under the leadership of President Aquino is seen as a success story by both the public and private sectors.

Record tourism arrivals have been posted year-on-year, starting 2010, growing at an average rate of 8.25 percent, besting regional and global growth.

Benito Bengzon, undersecretary for tourism planning, said that while the original target of 10-million arrivals will not be achieved this year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is still glad that it stuck with this ambitious fighting target.

The 10-million arrival goal, backed by the It’s More Fun in the Philippines Campaign, gave the government and private sector a chance to rally behind a fighting target, he said.

“If we had stopped at a much lower figure, then I don’t think it would have that rah-rah campaign. Look at the effect it has had on the Filipinos, there is a greater appreciation for tourism. In that respect, it has really fired up people. Are we below target? I don’t have to answer that. But we have to look beyond the target,” said Bengzon.

Despite only hitting half the goal, international tourist arrivals are still at a new record. It has grown from 3.02-million in 2009 to an estimated 5.2 million visitors in the end of 2015, a big milestone for the local tourism industry.

Domestic tourism also posted aggressive growth, as it exceeded the 2015 target of 51.7 million target in 2014 with 54.6-million travellers.

International tourism receipts have also been enjoying an upward trend, with overall revenues seen at P350.4-million in 2015 coming from 135.5 million at the start of the administration.

These increases in the economic contributions of tourism under the Aquino administration have set a new benchmark for the industry, according to Aileen Clemente, president of the Asean Tourism Association.

“These are the milestones and benchmarks, that we have looked at and they show a success story. Although of course, there is still room for improvement, nobody is ever satisfied. But as far as milestones are concerned, we achieved a lot,” she said.

The growth of the tourism industry in the last five years has surpassed expectations of the private sector, according to Eugene Yap, president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP).

“We are very happy with the efforts and the results made by the Aquino administration. This is the first time that the administration was able to bring tourism to one of the forefront priorities of government service,” Yap said. 

Improvement in Travel and Tourism Competitiveness 

Among the major accomplishments the tourism industry garnered in the last five years, is the improvement in the ranking of the Philippines in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness 2015 report of the World Economic Forum.

Coming from the 82nd place in 2013, the country placed 8 notches higher in the T&T Competitiveness Index. The Philippines ranked 74th out of 141 economies surveyed by the report.

The government’s prioritization of travel, international openness and price competitiveness contributed to the improvement in the country’s ranking.

Still, the Philippines lags behind many of its Asean neighbors, some of which ranked in the top 50. Singapore was ranked 11th, Malaysia, 25th, Thailand 35th and Indonesia 50th.

Safety and security concerns, as well as poor infrastructure, weighed down the country’s standing.

Clemente echoed the findings of the report, saying that lagging infrastructure development, as well as natural and man-made incidents hampered what could have been a faster growth for the tourism industry.

“Our airports and air agreements grew at a slower pace than the growth of tourism. This did hamper growth. If it was aligned by the timeline of the DOT, then we would have hit our targets,” she said.

Under the National Tourism Development Plan

All of the accomplishments made by the tourism industry in the years 2010-2015 all fall under the framework and strategic direction of the National Tourism Development Plan.

This roadmap has been guiding the public and private stakeholders on how to develop a sustainable tourism industry.

“Everything is aligned and part of the blueprint or roadmap for tourism from 2010-2016,” said Bengzon.

The three main strategic directions of the NTDP are: improving international air access and connectivity, development of world class tourism products and destinations and the empowerment of local executives and improving capabilities of the frontliners.

“The government recognized the need to modernize, improve and update the structure and vision of tourism. It progressed much because there was a clear framework that was done to ensure the movement,” said Clemente.

While there was a huge leap in tourism seen during the last five years, all three sources said that past administrations should also be credited in the success the industry has been seeing.

“The previous administrations, from Marcos and Aquino, each one made its own stride for the development of tourism. Aquino revitalized, continued, reassessed and reengineered the whole tourism industry. We have more awareness now than ever before,” said Yap.

Proper planning and development through years spanning different administration has built the tourism industry to what it is today, added Bengzon.

“Whatever successes we have now is a result of what we have built on through the years. When you look at tourism, while we say the benefits can be immediate or faster trickle than other industries, we have to take in mind it takes many years of proper planning and development before you can get to a stage like where we are now,” he said.
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