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MORE FUN | PH tourism competitiveness on the rise

Tourism has become one of the major industries in the Philippines under the Aquino Administration, with a total value or size of P982.4 billion and a 7.8% share to the country’s economy in 2014.

Photo credit: Hannah Reyes
Photo credit: Hannah Reyes

The industry is the fifth growth driver of the country next to manufacturing, trade, real estate, and agriculture, according to the latest report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Speaking before major tourism stakeholders at the 3rd Philippine Tourism Forum, Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. shared that the successes in tourism today are a result of a very important change that took place in 2010 — the entry of a national leadership that believes in tourism as a key driver of inclusive growth.

Since then, tourism has become an important part of the government’s main thrust of “Daang Matuwid.”

In his talk titled “The State of Philippine Tourism: 2010-2014,” Jimenez underscored the economic growth and development brought about by tourism in the country.

From FY 2010 until July 2015, cumulative international visitor arrivals reached 24.32 million, which was greater than the 22.64 million accomplished in nine years from FY 2001-2009.

Total tourism receipts amounted to P1.7436 trillion, with international arrivals contributing P274.6 billion and domestic tourism at P1.469 trillion – surpassing their 2014 targets of P269.9 billion and P1.409 trillion, respectively.

“When you run tourism as a business [and] the arrival numbers are not what you expect them to be, you shift your focus on markets that make more money per tourist. The Philippines now makes more money per tourist than most ASEAN countries. Inbound tourism now ranks third among the Philippines’ biggest export items in 2014, overtaking electronic data processing and principal agricultural products,” Jimenez stated.

Direct employment in the tourism industry is now at 4.758 million people or 12.5% of the total employment in the country — not yet including Filipinos who indirectly benefit and are employed as a result of increased tourism activities.

“We used to wonder how the people of Manila would share their wealth to the country. That is no mystery today. Every three-day weekend, the people of Manila spend their money outside of Manila,” Jimenez said.

He also discussed how the DOT has instituted discipline in tourism development thru the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), sharing that the major thrust of the Department has shifted towards identifying the product first and continuously improving it.

Jimenez also looked back at the unprecedented success of the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign, citing that this was born and prompted by the country’s lack of brand image and the need to generate awareness among its markets.

“It was not just a slogan; it was a mantra that runs so true, so real, that it made the Filipinos themselves the biggest fans of the Philippines,” the tourism chief said, relating the campaign’s success to the thousands of crowd-sourced memes generated by the Filipino public when the government only started with three versions online.

“It announced our availability as an exciting destination, but promised only what we were certain we could deliver — a happy atmosphere amid people who did not hesitate to allow foreigners to share their joy,” he added.

Jimenez also shared various national milestones that the tourism industry has achieved during the Aquino administration’s term, including a revitalized tourism road infrastructure program, increased air talks, and the development of cruise tourism.

Convergence in tourism infrastructure has never been robust as today, with the total amount of P60.48 allocated for tourism roads from 2011 – 2015. This is a dramatic increase of 338% from the measly P13.79 billion allocated for 2006 – 2010.

Of the 463 road projects (2,502.35 kilometers), a total of 110 road projects (1,549.59 kilometers) have already been completed.

“It has never happened in our history before. And this is the vision of the fiscal reform that will focus more on infrastructure for the business that is tourism,” the tourism chief stated.

Jimenez further cited that there is a 60.43 million current seat capacity available per week to Philippine carriers — a 150% increase from the previous administration, as a result of 42 air talks conducted during the Aquino administration as of July this year.

“I must, at this stage, stress that the Philippine Air Panel considers only one thing: the country’s share of the business,” he added.

With regard to cruise development, Jimenez shared that the number of cruise calls has increased from only 10 cruise calls in 2011 to a total of 54 recorded in 2014. And as of 2015, there are already 66 cruise calls scheduled.

The positive image of the Philippines as a tourist destination continues to spread further around the world.

The country ranked 74th in the 2015 World Economic Forum Tourism Competitiveness report, jumping 20 spots up from its 94th rank in 2011.

The tourism chief also took the occasion to announce that the DOT will be launching Visit the Philippines Again (VPA) for 2016, taking off from its current Visit the Philippines Year 2015 (VPY 2015) campaign.

Jimenez acknowledged that while tourism is not running perfectly, “growth is not only commonplace now, it is accelerating at the pace that is competitive despite lopsided and uninformed comparisons with other countries. The Philippines also has set the pace for marketing competition in this side of the world.”

“The biggest change in the country is in the hearts and minds of our people, in the towns, cities, provinces, in the private and public life, who now believe that tourism is a big part of their future and of their salvation,” Jimenez concluded.

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