SPECIAL REPORT: Aquino’s tourism pitch lures foreigners to typhoon-bait Philippines

MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) – Despite the number of natural catastrophes that batter the Philippines every year, the country has experienced “continued, steady, and uninterrupted” growth in the tourism sector, thanks to the strategy employed by the government of outgoing President Benigno Aquino III. 

The government under President Benigno Aquino III rallied the Philippines five years ago with its battle cry, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” slowly shedding off its image of being a haven for terrorists and a playground for killer typhoons.

Today, the tourism industry has become a “national industry” that has provided jobs to many Filipinos while showcasing the pristine beauty of the country’s investment worthy resources.

“At the rate the industry is growing, tourism has proven that it is an important pillar in the country’s economic growth. More than the industry’s performance in terms of numbers, tourism has proven to be a successful means to spreading the growth of the country to various sectors, from the protection of the environment to the emergence of local businesses, the development of infrastructure, and the preservation of our cultural heritage,” outgoing Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said.

The advertising stalwart took over the executive office in 2011, brandishing a more upbeat slogan plastered on bodies of public buses in London and 15-seconder spots on CNN to replace the much maligned “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” under predecessor Albert Lim.

Under the National Tourism Development Plan 2011-2016, international tourist receipts showed an increase to 306.6 billion pesos (US$46.5 billion) in 2015 from 135.5 billion pesos in 2010. Foreign tourists came in droves, with 5.3 million visiting the country last year.

Foreign tourists enjoyed the country so much they have extended their stay to 10.8 nights in 2015 from just eight nights in 2010. Their average daily expenditures also rose to 4,823 pesos in 2015 from 3,785 pesos in 2010.

Domestic travel also boomed, thanks to cheaper air travel and better road access in the provinces.

From 37.5 million in 2011, the recorded number of domestic travellers reached 54.6 million in 2015, even going beyond the 51.7-million target the Department of Tourism initially set for 2016.

As a result, domestic tourism receipts increased to 1.696 trillion pesos in 2015 from 713.8 billion pesos in 2010.

In total, the industry’s growth ushered in some 161.68 billion pesos tourism-related investment projects, thus providing jobs to some 5 million people.

Despite disasters such as Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) and the Bohol earthquake that destroyed many historic spots, tourism growth can be described as “continued, steady, and uninterrupted,” Assistant Tourism Secretary Rolando Canizal said.

The industry’s strong first quarter 2016 performance, already drawing in over 1.6 million tourists and raking in 67.74 billion pesos in revenues, meant the target of 6 million foreign visitors entering the country was well on track.

Jimenez said the strategies under the NTDP 2011-2016 enabled the department to “focus on improving the sector’s competitiveness and in contributing to the country’s overall goal of inclusive growth.” The NTDP served as a blueprint for tourism stakeholders at the national, regional and local levels to develop and market competitive tourist destinations and products; improve market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure; and improve institutional, governance and human resource capacities.

Canizal said the outgoing team would be leaving behind a legacy that could easily be replicated and developed by incoming Tourism chief Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo.

Canizal said NTDP 2016-2022, the DOT’s successor plan, would set the department’s direction in the next six years focusing on inclusive growth and competitiveness to sustain the industry’s gains.

“The past five years up to the present has been a story of how the DOT, together with its attached agencies, has achieved an enhanced orientation as the country’s primary marketing and selling unit. Together with the support of both public and private sectors, we were able to transform tourism into a national industry. Indeed, it has been a journey of an entire country working together to make tourism the people’s business,” Jimenez said.


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