Bright prospects in tourism sector seen in 2023

If the number of arrivals in our airports last Christmas Day is an indication, then we would see an uptrend in the tourism sector in 2023. This bodes well for an industry which was very much affected during the pandemic, as flights, events, conferences, etc. were all cancelled. This led to the closure – temporary or otherwise – of tourism establishments such as hotels, resorts, events venues, and even allied businesses such as restaurants, bars, car rental firms, events companies, security agencies, etc. The tourism industry casts a wide net that its impact is far-reaching and consequential to the lives and livelihood of many Filipinos.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said that almost 30,000 travelers, including Filipino passengers, arrived in the country on Christmas Day. This figure is way much higher than in previous years, partly credited to the relaxed restrictions for those entering the country. At the end of this month, the BI projects 3.2 to 3.5 million passengers using the airport terminals.

With these positive trends not only in domestic tourism, but more so for worldwide tourism, there is wisdom in preparation. For starters, there is a need for more world-class airports. This has been mentioned by the President in his speeches. It would, however, take some years before this becomes a reality.

In the absence of such infrastructure, there are many programs of the government, led by the Department of Tourism (DOT), to attract more tourists.  In fact, the DOT has revealed that it is targeting 4.8 million foreign tourists in 2023 – double than the 2022 arrival numbers, which is currently pegged at around 2.5 million.

“We look at it with optimism in a sense that our goal is to exceed our conservative projections in the same way that we have been able to exceed it this year,” said DOT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco. “We feel that we would be able to exceed our pre-pandemic numbers way earlier than the 2025 year that was told to us when we assumed office with the improved policies under the Marcos administration.”

The DOT had initially projected 1.7 million tourist arrivals this year, but the actual count recorded 2.46 million as of Dec. 19, 2022.  The tourism chief hopes that the year will close with 2.5 million visitor arrivals, which accounts to close to 30 percent of the industry’s pre-pandemic arrivals data when the Philippines recorded 8.3 million arrivals in 2019. This is a far cry from the 164,000 recorded in 2021.

The DOT has also revealed its priority goals for next year, which include stronger collaboration between national government agencies and LGUs in developing the country’s tourism portfolio, and exemplifying the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence (FBSE). This will highlight the training of 100,000 tourism workers, the highest record set by far for the industry.

Among the new tourism programs include the “Philippine Travel Experience,” which would give tourists a window to discover the country’s tourism gems; and the “Bisita, Be My Guest Program,” where the DOT will give away condo units, cars, and other prizes for returning Filipinos who can bring home acquaintances, friends, and family members to the country.

With all these in the pipeline, there is no way to go but up for the tourism industry. It is high time as it has experienced its lowest morale during the pandemic. We ought to give our all-out support and become the unofficial “tourism ambassadors” in our own little way because in the end, no one will help Filipinos but fellow Filipinos.