MANILA -- The country’s largest business organization, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), is encouraging more investments in tourism-related businesses, as it proposes a long-term plan aimed at making tourism one of the country’s biggest industries in 10 years, or by 2028.

PCCI director for Tourism Samie Lim said the group targets to raise USD20 billion investments in thousands of tourism enterprises employing Filipinos in 20 world class destinations.

"There are people who have a lot of money, they don’t know where to invest. We told them tourism is the next thing to invest. I am getting business people to invest money, USD20 billion. The return of investments is USD150 billion (in tourism income) in 10 years, it’s better than investing in stocks," he told reporters over the weekend.

Lim identified the areas of investments as the so-called 5As forming the tourism supply chain - arrival, access, accommodation, attraction and activities.

"We advocated for open sky policy and we advocated for bringing in budget airlines and more airports. On arrival, meaning the infrastructure, when people arrive, how do they get into destination? The roads, the bridges, the communication system, and so on," he explained.

Lim said the PCCI is currently evaluating an initial 10 provinces for tourism investments.

These destinations include Clark, Palawan, Bicol and Ilocos in Luzon; Bohol, Iloilo/Guimaras, Dumaguete and Leyte in Visayas; and Davao/Samal Island and Cagayan de Oro/Bukidnon in Mindanao.

Lim said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), through funding from the Canadian government, has asked all the local government units (LGUs) to submit their tourism plans.

"They (LGUs) have come up with about 40 different provinces, we have trimmed them down to 20, but we are now evaluating 10 of them," he said, noting the assessment will be based on 5As, which are important to tourism investments.

Lim expressed optimism the proposed long-term tourism program could attract 20 million foreign and 100 million domestic tourists on the tenth year, and make the Philippines at par with those of its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of tourist numbers.

"Right now, we are seventh or eighth (rank). Hopefully, with this (program), we will be on top five," he added. (PNA)