The Senate Committee on Finance Subcommittee “J” on Thursday (Oct. 6) has submitted for plenary debate the proposed Php 3.573B budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and its attached agencies for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023.
Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco expressed her elation with the development and offered the DOT’s sincerest appreciation to Senator Nancy Binay, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Tourism and Senate Finance Subcommittee J, and to Senators Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, JV Ejercito, Koko Pimentel, Loren Legarda, and Robinhood Padilla for their manifestation of support to the Department’s plans and programs that are enclosed in its seven-point agenda and three key strategies to revitalize the Philippine tourism industry in the coming years.
“I have high hopes that, with the support of the Senate, the Tourism Department will receive the budget that it needs to fulfill the vision of the President and the programs that we have prepared. The amount that you’ll be granting to us will redound to benefit millions of Filipinos in terms of new employment, new businesses, a recovery of lost livelihood and lost economic opportunities,” said the Tourism Secretary.
Higher tourism budget
Secretary Frasco noted the impact of the Senate Subcommittee’s favorable decision on the DOT’s budget for FY 2023, with even some Senators strongly advocating for an increased budget for the Department in the coming years.
“The tourism industry, supposedly, contributes about 2.48 billion pesos to our GDP. So, that is 12.8% of our total economy. That’s quite a substantial number, and yet the budget that you’re [asking] is quite minuscule. I think maybe not now but, moving forward, I think that you should get a bigger share of the budget,” remarked Senator Poe.
The Senator made a reference to Secretary Frasco’s presentation of the tourism budget appropriations in the ASEAN region, which showed that the Philippines, with a $49 million tourism budget, is faring quite behind its neighbors, including Indonesia, with a tourism budget as high as $358 million.
Senator Ejercito shared a similar sentiment with Senator Poe, saying “That probably explains the way they (ASEAN members) market their countries. It’s really advertising all over the world, ‘no. But given the meager budget that we have, we can still improve a lot.”
“We have to equip you to do what you have to do to promote the Philippines diyan sa plano po ninyo,” added Senator Pimentel, who committed to study and explore how the DOT can fully maximize fund sources such as the Special Account in the General Fund (SAGF) of Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), to support its plans and programs for the country’s tourism industry recovery.
“Fun” tourism slogan to evolve
Addressing some Senators’ queries on the DOT’s new direction in terms of tourism branding and promotions, Secretary Frasco clarified that the existing “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” will evolve while not changing the marketing of the country as far as being more fun but also incorporating a branding approach that highlights the best qualities of the country and the Filipino people.
The evolution of the country’s existing tourism slogan, Secretary Frasco noted, is based on the DOT’s consideration of studies and emerging travel trends.
“The trends of the world market as far as travelers are concerned, are that post-pandemic, they now wish for more immersive, substantial, and experiential tours and travel experiences. The highlighting of one’s strength of culture and identity as a nation has bode well for our neighbors as far as the ASEAN region is concerned. We fully intend that in this evolution, we will make sure that the Philippines will continue to be fun and at the same time also herald the best qualities of the Filipino brand,” noted Secretary Frasco.
Ongoing efforts and future plans
Among the DOT’s upcoming initiatives, Secretary Frasco announced, include the launching of a heritage, arts, and culture caravan this month, and the groundbreaking of a total of 10 Tourist Rest Areas across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Department is breaking ground on the first batch of Tourist Rest Areas on October 7-8, in the following locations: Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon, Samal Island in Davao, Carmen and Medellin towns in Cebu.
Banking on the continued support of the Senate, Secretary Frasco is optimistic on the attainment of the DOT’s aspirations for the tourism industry.
“I know that we can, and we will rebuild a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable tourism industry. After all, tourism is our shared responsibility,” she enthused.
The Tourism Secretary likewise assured the Senators of the DOT’s appreciation and consideration of the valuable inputs that emanated from the meeting, which revolved around the lawmakers’ manifestations and suggestions on the further promotion of existing tourism products such as Film and Heritage and Culture, introduction of new tourism products, employment generation and upskilling of tourism workforce, improvement of tourism infrastructure, and ease of travel and requirements protocols, among others.