By Edgardo J. Angara
Tourism has remained a sturdy pillar of the country’s development. This and the Filipinos’ overseas remittances, have consistently and strongly supported the nation’s socio-economic progress.
2017 was a sort of boom year. The country played host to a series of international events, featuring the ASEAN 50th anniversary and Leaders’ Summit, the UN World Tourism Organization International Conference on Tourism Statistics, the World Street Food Congress, the Madrid-Manila Fusion Event, the Miss Universe Pageant, and several other milestones.
A record-high 6.8 million foreign tourists came to the country, a 15 percent increase from the visits registered in the year before. According to the Department of Tourism, each foreign guest spent an average of US$133 or P6,700 a day, but they stayed longer — up to a week from a previous average of three to four days.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said that between January and August last year, the country earned up to US$3.3 billion or P166.3 billion in of tourism receipts, maintaining the sector’s ranking as the third-largest contributor to the country’s GDP.
There appears even greater prospect for stronger tourism for at least two reasons.
The first is the growing leisure and travelling class of Asia. The ASEAN and its East Asian neighbors provide a steady stream of visitors as their incomes rise.
The second is the game-changing opening of the Philippine tourist market to mainland China. Last year, the Hong Kong Trade and Investment Association and the Shenzen Stock Exchange Mission came to Manila separately accompanied by delegations of well-known brand names to explore trade and investment opportunities here. The striking theme often sounded is the country’s undiscovered beauty and refreshing people’s warmth.
Urban centers like Manila, Cebu, Baguio, Angeles, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro are easily accessible and have a fair supply of accommodations and scenery.
Several expressed the hope, however, that they can go to places less travelled and seldom seen. Here lies the hideaway treasures of the Philippines – its rural life in the countryside.
And key to this is the DTI-DPWH Convergence Program ROLL-IT (Roads Leveraging Linkages for Industry and Trade). It’s the Duterte administration’s infrastructure flagship, the blueprint to match jobs and people.
Part of the funds has been budgeted. It’s the Cabinet’s turn to hasten the roads, bridges, and other forms of connectivity to these new, often far-flung, destinations. Not just in the name of tourism, but more basic is to achieve inclusive growth. The concrete proposal is to improve and convert economic zones into tourism hubs.
In a country as beautiful and as bountiful as the Philippines, a booming tourism, particularly in the rural areas, will make for a highly complementary, urban-rural balanced socio-economic development.
Email: [email protected]| Facebook & Twitter: @edangara