The current status of the tourism industry in the Philippines was one of the many topics that President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III talked about during the hour and a half long State of the Nation Address he delivered this afternoon. Out of all the topics that President Aquino may discuss during the SONA, this was one of the main things that I was waiting to hear. With exhaustive efforts towards the It’s More Fun in the Philippines tourism campaign launched by the Department of Tourism (DoT), I was curious on how it is faring compared to the other tourism campaigns launched by the previous administrations.
A Booming Tourism Industry in the Philippines
President Aquino praised DoT Secretary Mon Jimenez for the impressive growth of the tourism industry in the Philippines. In his State of the Nation Address, the President pointed to the number of tourists visiting the Philippines as evidence of the continuing growth of the tourism industry:
Consider this: In 2001, the Philippines recorded 1.8 million tourist arrivals. When we assumed office in 2010, this figure had grown to only around 3.1 million. Take note: despite the length of their time in office, the previous administration only managed to add a mere 1.3 million tourist arrivals—and we contributed half a year to that number. Under our administration, we welcomed 2.1 million tourist arrivals by June 2012. More will arrive during peak season, before the end of the year, so I have no doubt that we will meet our quota of 4.6 million tourist arrivals for 2012. This means that we will have a year-on-year increase of 1.5 million tourists.
But Wait! There’s More…
Now that the tourism industry in the Philippines has gotten back on its feet, the President pointed that the next step is to take the country to a level where it is at par with the other more popular tourist destinations in Asia like Thailand and Malaysia. He boldly stated that the Department of Tourism aims to hit an annual average of ten million tourists visiting the Philippines by 2016.
Sounds impossible? Overwhelming, perhaps. But not impossible, and President Aquino explained in his SONA how this could become a reality.
1. Improving the infrastructures in the country
In his State of the Nation Address, the President mentioned how improving the infrastructure in the country is intertwined with the growth of the tourism industry. And he is quite right about that. The deploring conditions of the country’s road networks and airports have deterred tourists from visiting the Philippines. On the other hand, improving these infrastructures and building more of these infrastructures in the country will bring a message out there that the Philippines is, indeed, poised to become one of the must visit tourist destinations in the Philippines.
2. Capitalizing on what we have
The Philippines has often been equated by many tourists as a prime beach destination. Early this month, Travel + Leisure magazine named Boracay as the Best Island Getaway in the World. Just a few days ago, Palawan’s Ariara Island got the number one spot in British Vogue’s Top 100 Holiday Destinations in the World.
But that’s not the only thing we can offer to tourists. The Philippines is a treasure trove of breathtaking natural treasures like the Puerto Princesa River, which was recently recognized as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. It is also home to a rich cultural heritage and is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the city of Vigan, which is now a nominee for the New 7 Wonders Cities.
Indeed, there is a the Philippines can offer to the world, and help the tourism industry in the Philippines to eventually compete with other countries in Asia.
3. Solid support for the tourism industry in the Philippines
During his SONA, President Aquino indirectly called for the support of the Filipino people towards the endeavors of the tourism industry in the Philippines by pointing to how the solidarity of the Filipinos made it possible for the Puerto Princesa Underground River to become one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. If Filipinos continue to help support and promote the It’s More Fun in the Philippines campaign, there is a very good chance that the tourism industry would be able to churn up the numbers projected by the DoT.
I was very pleased with the way how things have been going for the tourism industry in the Philippines. As the President concluded his SONA, he pointed out that all the positive outcomes he reported regarding the tourism industry and other sectors were made possible because of the Filipino people’s support towards the different projects of the government.
The tourism industry in the Philippines still has a long way to go to reach the same level as the other prime tourist destinations in Asia. But for as long as we do our part, no matter how small it may be, it plays a role in making the Philippines once again the precious Pearl of the Orient.