CEBU, Philippines – The Department of Tourism (DOT) foresees a strong recovery for Philippine tourism and expressed optimism in meeting—and even surpassing—industry targets for the year.
Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco made the assertion Friday (Aug. 11) while she served as panelist of the latest leg of the Post-SONA Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB) Roadshow of the national government, where she shared updates on the industry’s performance under the Marcos administration.
Secretary Frasco noted that from January to July this year, the country’s foreign tourism receipts have already tallied Php 286 billion. This figure, she said, is consistent with the over 66 percent tourism international arrivals recovery of the country being higher than the average ASEAN growth of 54 percent, based on the second UNWTO World Tourism Barometer on the Recovery by Region in Q1 2023.
Tourism receipts from foreign and domestic visitors for 2022 amounted to Php 1.87 trillion showing the momentum towards the phenomenal tourism performance in the first half of 2023.
In addition, the Tourism Secretary also shared that as of August 10, the Philippines received 3,376,514 foreign visitor arrivals, which already surpasses 70% of the country’s 4.8 million baseline industry target for the entire year.
“These numbers are only seen to grow further especially that the Philippines has now fully opened up to tourism. We’re very grateful to our President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. for prioritizing tourism in his national development agenda,” the Tourism Secretary said.
In terms of employment, the DOT recorded over 5.35 million individuals employed in tourism-related industries in 2022, which is 93 percent of the industry’s employment figures during the pre-pandemic period of 2019.
Secretary Frasco also cited the statement of the country’s economic managers which revealed the rebound of tourism growth as the second driver of economic development in the Philippines for the period January to June 2023.
Harnessing the full tourism potential of Central Visayas
At the Post-SONA PEB held at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, Secretary Frasco also provided an overview of the DOT’s strategies in order to sustain the tourism industry’s momentum under the Marcos administration.
In Central Visayas, where combined international and domestic visitor arrivals have already reached 2.2 million as of June 30, the DOT, according to Frasco, is further developing the country’s tourism portfolio, including the English as Second Language (ESL), which is seen as a big come-on specially for non-english speaking markets. Meanwhile, MICE, golf, as well as health and wellness are also being developed as these are seen as bright spots for tourism in the region, according to the tourism chief.
Another positive development is the exponential increase in connectivity with the additional international flights to and from the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA), now at 195 flights as of August 10, or a growth rate of 315 percent from the same period last year.
Based on the DOT’s latest nationwide survey for 2023, Cebu ranks number one in terms of most preferred destination among overnight travelers.
Secretary Frasco also announced the construction of more Tourist Rest Areas (TRAs), in addition to the ones already being constructed in Dauis, Bohol, and in the Municipalities of Carcar, Carmen, and Moalboal. Recently, the TRA in Medellin was inaugurated and turned over to the local government units.
Further, she also signified the DOT’s strong intent to develop the region as a cruise tourism hub. This year, 4 cruise ships are expected to make a port of call in various islands in Central Visayas “with much room to grow.”
In keeping with its commitment to sustainable tourism development, projects are in the pipeline for the country’s key and emerging destinations in Bohol, Siquijor, and Siargao Islands.
The tourism chief likewise maintained confidence in the Philippines industry’s ability to bounce back sooner under the leadership of the President and its partnership with stakeholders.
“We anticipate that with the policies supporting tourism under the Marcos administration, the convergences that we have had under our President’s whole-of-nation approach towards tourism development, and most importantly, our private sector’s partnership, collaboration, continued investment, and belief in the strength of the tourism industry, will allow us to adopt and occupy a more primary position in Asia and recover sooner than what is predicted. Cebu, Central Visayas, and the rest of the Philippines will exceed all expectations because there are just so many reasons to love the Philippines,” Secretary Frasco said.
Referring to Central Visayas as a “treasure trove of dive destinations”, the Tourism Secretary also pointed out the need to further support diving in the region, and announced the DOT’s upcoming Tourism Dive Dialogue.
“Recognizing the huge contribution of diving in Central Visayas, the Marcos administration has seen it fit to hold the very first Tourism Dive Dialogue this September here in Cebu, to consolidate all the efforts of the national government, the local governments, as well as the private sector to be able to ensure that policies and programs will fully support the full expansion of dive tourism here in Central Visayas,” Secretary Frasco said.
The DOT through its infrastructure arm, the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), also eyes the installation of hyperbaric chambers in key dive sites, including in Dumaguete, and in Daanbantayan in Cebu in 2024.
The Philippines as host of 36th joint meeting of the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, and South Asia
In reintroducing the Philippines to the world, Secretary Frasco also announced Cebu’s hosting of the 36th joint meeting of the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, and South Asia next year.
This, after the Philippines, represented by Secretary Frasco, was elected as Vice President of the 25th General Assembly of the UNWTO as well as Chair of the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific last June 16.
Also serving as panelists during the Post-SONA PEB Cebu session titled “Reinvigorate. Accelerate. Transform.” were Cabinet Secretaries Alfredo Pascual of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Bienvenido Laguesma of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), as well as Undersecretary Marlo Iringan of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Assistant Secretary Genevieve Velicaria-Guevarra of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Mr. Charles Kenneth Co, President of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also joined and represented the private sector in the panel moderated by Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Margaux Marie Salcedo.