Milestone achievements marked the first full year of the country’s tourism program under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who acknowledges the industry as one of the top contributors to the gross domestic product (GDP).
Under the stewardship of Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo, the Department of Tourism celebrated a meaningful 44th founding anniversary in May, reiterating the agency’s commitment to a sustainable and inclusive tourism program.
The National Tourism Development of the Philippines (NTDP) for 2016-2022, which sustains 5.2 million jobs thus far, hopes to create 1.5 million more jobs.
The spectacular staging of the 65th Miss Universe pageant in January virtually put the Philippines on the map of world tourism. The hosting of the 3rd Madrid Fusion Manila, ASEAN conferences, and the recent United Nations World Tourism Organization 6thInternational Conference on Statistics – are but a few of major events spearheaded by DOT.
In a fitting tribute to the country’s heightened stature as a safe world-class destination, prominent Travel+Leisure magazine adjudged Palawan as the World’s Best Island for two consecutive years, with top rating on people’s hospitality.
To improve accessibility to emerging tourist sites, the government has embarked on a massive tourism infrastructure, as well as expanded international and domestic air connectivity as the key to opening more gateways.
“With selfless dedication and faith in God and good old Filipino resiliency among the stakeholders, we have hurdled obstacles and surmounted setbacks. We are up for the challenge in the next five years,” says Secretary Teo.
Tourism: Philippine Economy’s Bright Spot
The tourism industry has become a bright spot for the Philippine economy during the first year of the Duterte administration, with the country more than doubling its tourism revenues to Php 222.30 billion from July 2016 to May 2017, a 109.13 percent increase compared to Php 106.297 billion receipts during the first 11 months (July 2010 – May 2011) of the Aquino administration.
The country has also recorded a robust growth in international arrivals. During President Rodrigo Duterte’s first 11 months, the Philippines has welcomed 5,871,304 tourists, a 71.83 percent increase compared to 3,416,836 arrivals during the previous administration.
The year-long tourism boom can be attributed to the government’s firm resolve in dealing with threats creating a more secure and safe environment and raising tourists’ confidence.
The Place To Be
Without a doubt, it has been a busy year for the DOT.
Early this year, the Philippines secured the hosting of the 65th Miss Universe 2016 pageant giving 86 of the world’s most beautiful ladies a taste of the world-renowned Filipino hospitality and a glimpse of our world-class local destinations. In fact, the country hosted Miss Universe so good that the organizers offered the 2017 edition to be held in the Philippines once again.
The Philippines also retains its stature as Asia’s Center of Gastronomy with the 3rd Madrid Fusion Manila gathering some 1700 congress delegates from around the world and internationally acclaimed chefs in Manila.
Meanwhile, famous food critic Anthony Bourdain graced the World Street Food Congress 2017 solidifying the rise of Filipino cuisine in the international food scene.
Global tourism expert and Secretary General of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai led seven tourism ministers and some 1000 delegates from all over the world to the country for the 6th UNWTO International Conference on Tourism Statistics last month.
The Philippines will once again be at the center stage as it is set to host dignitaries from different parts of the world with ASEAN @50 events.
Better Bilateral Relations
The first year of Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo’s administration is perhaps one of the most prolific times in the tourism industry in terms of fostering better relations with some of our source markets.
In a span of one year, the Philippines has inked monumental tourism cooperation agreements with five countries namely China, Russia, Cambodia, Thailand and Turkey.
These agreements have yielded stronger bilateral relations and tourism partnerships between the Philippines and the aforementioned countries in terms of exchange programs for tourism professionals and students, joint promotions, cultural exchange, trainings and tourism investments.
These bilateral efforts and the strengthening of ties particularly with China has touted an immense growth in the tourism sector, making the Philippines one of the most favored destinations of Chinese tourists.
Since Duterte took office last year, Chinese arrivals surged to 36.3 percent. Numbers are expected to increase as China committed to sending at least a million Chinese travellers to the Philippines this year.
First Year Flying High
Visits to these countries helped the Department of Tourism seal air negotiation agreements and action programs that will bring in more tourists from our major source markets.
Teo’s first year in the office spurred the availability of 811, 044 new seats with the opening of new air routes.
With almost all tourist arrivals coming via air at approximately 98%, the DOT has initiated development of new air routes and opening of other gateways outside of Metro Manila.
For the first five months of 2017, foreign airlines like China Eastern, Sichuan Airlines, Xiamen Air, Lucky Air and Air Asia opened 192,660 seats while local carriers Philippine Airlines and Philippines Air Asia added 230,880.
Applications of six international carriers will open new services to Cebu, Caticlan, Kalibo, Clark, and Manila. These are from West Air (Chongking-Cebu), Thai Smiles (Bangkok-Cebu), 9 Air (Guangzhou-Cebu), Hainan (Haiku to Cebu and Manila), Jetstar (Singapore to Caticlan and Clark), and June Yao (Shanghai-Kalibo).
The DOT is continuously working with different stakeholders and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in line with the ‘Build, Build, Build’ thrust of the current administration to further improve airport facilities and over-all airport experience of our tourists.
Booming Cruise Tourism
This year, a total of 117 international cruise vessels dropped anchor on Philippine shores, a quantum leap increase as compared to the 10 cruise ships in 2011.
This year alone, the Philippines expects over a hundred port calls bringing in an estimated 122,000 cruise passengers by December.
Recently, Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo made a homeport deployment in Manila bringing in over 4,000 cruise passengers.
The Philippines has recently yielded some major strides for the country’s cruise industry bagging major propositions from some of the world’s largest international cruise lines such as Carnival Corporation , The MSC Cruises , Oceana Cruises, Regent Seven Seascruise, Winstar Cruises and the cruise giant Royal Carribean.
Tourism Infrastructure Projects Thrive
Infrastructure development by the DOT is undertaken with its attached agencies like the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and the Intramuros Administration (IA) as well as in partnership with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Under the DOT-DPWH Convergence Program, the construction and improvement of roads and bridges and the installation of lightings leading to tourism destinations were completed in 16 out of 18 regions of the Philippines totaling 209 projects.
The “Intramuros Revival Project” include the opening of the newly renovated Postigo Nuestra Señora de Soledad, Plaza Moriones in Fort Santiago and Casa Azul within Intramuros.
TIEZA, DOT’s infrastructure arm, is in full swing for the development of Tourism Enterprise Zones (TEZs).
For its Flagship TEZs, San Vicente town in northwestern Palawan is the pilot project. Works accomplished included the removal of hill obstruction along the new airport; bidding for feasibility studies on power & water supply; construction of tourism office and information center; and the LGU issuance of Deed of Restrictions and Development Guidelines.
At the Rizal Park in Manila, the bidding for construction of Esplanade, landscaping repair and rehabilitation, installation of permanent lighting of Rizal Monument and Flagpole have been completed.
There are on-going developments for other TEZs: Ciudad de Victoria in Bulacan, Bravo Golf Resort in Dumaguete City, and Queens Castle in Medellin, Cebu.
Aside from the Convergence Program with DPWH, other completed and on-going projects by TIEZA include the construction of tourist information centers and “green restrooms” nationwide.
Simultaneous construction are on-going for the new Tubbataha Ranger and Research Station in Cagayancillo, Palawan; Museo de Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia in Naga City; two-kilometer mangrove boardwalk and convention center in Del Carmen, Siargao Island; Mount Pinatubo Eco-Tourism Park in Sapang Uwak-Uwak in Porac, Pampanga; Mindanao Tourism & Cultural Village in Davao City.
Meanwhiler, Hinulugan Tatak Waterfalls in Antipolo City; Cagsawa Ruins Park in Daraga, Albay; and Manaoag Shrine Tourist Center in Pangasinan are undergoing rehabilitation as tourist destinations.
A Swifter Accreditation Process
Accreditation is part of the DOT’s mandate to prescribe and regulate standards for the operation of the tourism industry to achieve global competitiveness, strengthen data gathering and, research on tourism, and facilitate the promotion of individual enterprises and the industry as a whole.
Primary tourism enterprises are periodically required to secure accreditation from the Department as to the quality of their facilities and standard of services. Accreditation is voluntary for secondary tourism enterprises.
And from July 2016 to July 2017, the DOT has issued accreditation to 4,057 enterprises and frontliners.
Meanwhile, orientation workshops are currently being held with stakeholders at the regional level on the implementation of a three-level Progressive Accreditation System (PAS) for primary enterprises reflecting progressive minimum requirements and includes customers’ expectations. The processes include registration, regular accreditation and star accreditation.
Plans and Targets
The record pace drafting and approval of the National Tourism Development Plan v 2016 to 2022 itself is a feat of the DOT.
The NTDP is aligned with this administration’s Philippine Development Plan and lays down the basis of for new goals and targets such as the 12 million foreign arrivals and 89.2 million domestic travellers for year 2022.
By the end of the Duterte administration, at least three million Filipinos would have been lifted from poverty because of opportunities spurred by tourism.
In addition, the tourism sector will have made a ten percent contribution to the country’s GDP. But more importantly, about 6.5 million workers will fuel the tourism sector as a result of job and business opportunities arising from higher visitor arrivals, visitor expenditure and foreign direct investments.