The Department of Tourism (DOT) sees the global recognitions and the pull of Philippine destinations on international tourists as two of the milestones the sector reached on the first year of the Marcos administration.
On the eve of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), the DOT said the country has made some strides towards the goal of transforming the country as a tourism powerhouse in Asia.
It touted the fact that the Philippines and its destinations continue to gain global traction and accolades from the biggest award-giving bodies in the industry.
The Philippines bagged titles as the World’s Leading Beach Destination, the World’s Leading Dive Destination, and Asia’s Leading Tourist Attraction (Intramuros) at the 2022 World Travel Awards (WTA).
The country was also hailed as World’s Leading Country Destination at the Uzakrota Global Travel Awards in Turkey.
The Philippines was also recognized as the Emerging Muslim-Friendly Destination at the Halal in Travel Awards 2023 in Singapore.
This year, the country is vying for six titles for the Asia category of the 30th WTA.
The DOT also noted the tourism resurgence in 2022 after the country attracted 2.65 million foreign arrivals, surpassing the 1.7 million yearend projections by nearly 1 million additional visitors.
Of this number, 1.8 million or 69.32 percent arrived between July 1 to Dec. 31, 2022.
Domestic tourism, it said, served a pivotal role in the post-pandemic resurgence of Philippine tourism last year, with the DOT recording over 102 million domestic trips up by 176.18 percent increase from 37.28 million in 2021.
Internal tourism expenditure last year reached PHP1.87 trillion, a 131.2 percent increase from PHP810.20 billion in 2021.
The Tourism Direct Gross Value Added share of the sector to the Philippine economy as measured by the Gross Domestic Product in 2022 was estimated at 6.2 percent and valued at PHP1.38 trillion, 36.9 percent higher compared with the PHP1.00 trillion in 2021.
As of July 21, the DOT has recorded 3,017,224 foreign visitor arrivals, less than 1.8 million short of its 4.8 million target for 2023.
The DOT, with Secretary Christina Frasco at the helm, pushed for the liberalization of Covid-19 protocols and the improvement of the eArrival card and e-Travel system to allow the Philippines to be at par with its ASEAN neighbors and to fully open up the country to tourism.
The DOT sought to fully maximize the country’s air gateways by calling to resume discontinued flights and open up new routes.
Since the start of the administration, routes such as Cebu to Baguio, Cebu to Jeju, Manila to Perth and Cebu to Cotabato opened.
Secondary gateways like the Clark International Airport will also increase its flights, from 48 to 98 international flights, and 23 to 69 local flights.
As the DOT continues its dialogue with its partners in the aviation sector to jumpstart air routes and boost tourism activity, it is also actively taking steps towards making the country more attractive for cruise tourism.
The Philippines expects a total of 121 cruise calls for the entire 2023, higher compared to the 102 cruise calls in 2019.
Of the 121 cruise calls for 2023, 60 have already arrived to the country while 61 are scheduled to make port calls from October onwards.
Through its Cruise Tourism Program, the DOT led welcome reception programs for guests of the Silver Spirit, Silver Shadow, and ultra-luxury cruise ship Seaborn Encore.
Continuing to make true of Marcos’ promise, the DOT closely works with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways to upgrade the country’s airports, seaports and roads.
Starting with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2, Cebu City Pier One, and the Davao International Airport, the DOT said interior, decor and furniture enhancements are now seen and felt, “with the enhancements in the other pilot areas nearing completion”.
The DOT together with DPWH is pushing to enhance and continue projects under the existing Tourism Road Infrastructure Program (TRIP) as well as the exploration and pursuit of new infrastructure projects, with at least PHP16 billion invested in tourism roads for 2023.
The DOT and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) have also signed an agreement that will pave the way for improved internet connectivity in 94 tourist destinations, with 46 destinations already powered up.
The agency, through the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, also broke ground on Tourist Rest Areas (TRAs) in 10 strategic locations nationwide.
These TRAs come equipped with features that will come in handy for travelers including clean restrooms, shower area, lounge area, pasalubong or souvenir center, and charging station.
In addition, the agency will launch a Tourist Lifecycle App with the Tourism Promotions Board that will cater to domestic and foreign tourists.
‘Love the Philippines’
Confirming anew that the “Love the Philippines” slogan will stay, the DOT said the new tourism campaign was a response to Marcos’ SONA call to come up with an “enhanced Filipino brand” that sparks the sense of pride and strong sense of identity in the country.
The branding, launched last month, is anchored on showing the many aspects that travelers will come to love about the country — the biodiversity, heritage, culture, history and the people.
“Through the enhanced tourism branding campaign, ‘Love The Philippines’, the Department of Tourism will continue to highlight our tourism offerings — our diverse culture, gastronomy, the unparalleled beauty of our destinations, and most especially, the warmth of our people,” Frasco said.
“There is a plethora of reasons to love The Philippines and we are determined to ensure that the world is reminded of what we can offer,” she added.
Over the past year, the DOT and its marketing and promotion arm the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines led the country’s comeback to important international expos including the Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) 2023 Convention in Germany last March 2023, and the ASEAN Tourism Forum Travel Exchange in Indonesia last February 2023.
Participation in these key expos, the DOT said, allowed the Philippines to successfully generate over three billion in estimated sales leads.
The Philippines was also elected as vice president of the 25th General Assembly of the UN World Tourism Organization, a position that the country last held in 1999.
More tourism projects
The DOT embarked on a mission to train 100,000 individuals on the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence (FBSE) by yearend by capitalizing on world-renowned Filipino hospitality.
From the beginning of 2023 up to July 14, the DOT trained 61,368 individuals on the FBSE.
The FBSE is the department’s centerpiece program that aims to promote the best attributes of Filipino hospitality and develop outstanding service to tourists.
Putting a premium on tourist safety, the department also strengthened its tourist-oriented Police for Community Order and Protection program, successfully training a total of 7,575 police officers.
Over 21,000 tourism jobs were also made available nationwide under its Philippine Tourism Job Fair series.
Acting on the president’s directive, the DOT and other national government agencies led a high-level meeting to tackle electronic visa reforms specifically for Chinese and Indian markets.
In promoting the Mindanao region as a peaceful and viable tourism destination, the department also entered into an agreement with the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
This year, the country likewise launched the Bisita, Be My Guest incentive program and the first-ever Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours in the Philippines, starting with the cities of Makati and Manila, providing an innovative and convenient way to travel through key cities.
“We are also very positive about the sustained progress and development of the industry as we gather more support from various stakeholders in our continuing pursuit to maximize the contribution of tourism to the lives of millions of Filipinos,” Frasco said. (PNA)