(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) is pursuing a 2022 recovery plan with the end goal of a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive Philippine tourism industry.

Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Friday presented the plan during the deliberation of the DOT's proposed 2022 budget before the House of Representatives appropriations committee chaired by Rep. Eric Go Yap.

The DOT proposed a PHP3.52 billion budget for 2022 to support its plans and programs, as well as a PHP63.71 million allocation for the Intramuros Administration and PHP203.79 million for the National Parks Development Committee.

She said the DOT would expand its product offerings and explore more green tourism lanes that may be used by domestic tourists next year once the Philippines' travel set-up has stabilized.

Romulo-Puyat said the DOT's policy direction banks on the reformulated National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2016 to 2022, which has a three-pronged thrust of promoting safe, fun, and competitive tourism; pursuing sustainable, inclusive, and resilient tourism; and strengthening governance and destination management.

The DOT has also updated its Tourism Response and Recovery Plan (TRRP) with the main objective of mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry.

She said this would guide the department and stakeholders in ensuring the protection of jobs and safety of travel workers, visitors, and communities, as well as support for tourism enterprises.

Among others, it will help rebuild confidence and growing demand in domestic and foreign markets.

“Under the Tourism Standards and Enforcement Program, we shall continue to improve service standards and restore confidence to travel, develop, and enforce tourism standards that are at par with global best practices,” she said.

'Swift budget proceedings'

Romulo-Puyat, meanwhile, thanked the lawmakers for the swift proceedings on her department’s proposed budget and welcomed their acknowledgment of DOT's efforts throughout the pandemic.

She particularly thanked Rizal 1st District Rep. Michael John Duavit, vice chair of the appropriations committee, for presiding and maintaining a swift and smooth hearing.

During the budget deliberation, Laguna 3rd District Rep. Marisol Aragones-Sampello, chair of the House’s tourism committee, lauded Puyat's enthusiasm in visiting tourism destinations to uplift local stakeholders despite the threat posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

"Malaking bagay iyan sa amin. Kahit mahirap, sumagwan kayo; kahit mahirap, tumayo kayo; kahit mahirap, umikot kayo. Alam natin na magiging handa ang DOT at ang taong bayan sa tatawagin nating New Normal (It's a big help for us. Despite the difficulty, you kept going. I know the DOT will be ready when the new normal comes)," she said.

Baguio City Rep. Marquez Go sought to increase the agency's proposed budget as he recognized the industry's contribution to the country’s economy.

"Dahil sa malaking kontribusyon ng turismo, sa palagay ko kailangan dagdagan 'yan (Because it greatly contributes to the economy, I think we should increase their budget)," Go said.

Lanao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo seconded Go' s proposal, pointing out that additional appropriations for the DOT would bolster economic activities, especially in the rural areas, and could attract those who have left the communities to return.

Before the pandemic, the tourism industry contributed PHP2.51 trillion, or nearly 13 percent, to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. This dropped to PHP973.31 billion in 2020 at the height of the health crisis.

Based on the World Tourism Barometer report of the United Nations World Tourism Organization issued in May, the global travel industry suffered a decline of 72.9 percent in international visitor arrivals in 2020.

The Philippines registered a much steeper 82 percent slide from 8.26 million tourist arrivals in 2019 to just 1.48 million in 2020.

"Despite the challenges and limitations in 2020 and 2021, the DOT has been relentless in its efforts to keep the tourism industry afloat while laying the groundwork for the industry's recovery," Romulo-Puyat said.

She said the DOT is focused heavily on providing immediate response to those displaced by the pandemic.

Romulo-Puyat reported that as of August 26, the DOT has conducted 352 training courses for industry stakeholders with 19,871 participants.

"During the industry's downtime, we were able to reskill, upskill, and retool the tourism stakeholders with the health and safety protocols and operations under a new normal environment," she said.

Further, 44 new tourism circuits were established by the department, in addition to the 71 that are still undergoing development.

“The DOT will continue to stay attuned to the ever-changing tourism trends and preferences of our domestic and foreign markets through continued product and market research. And as international borders start to open, the key, strategic and opportunity markets will continue to be engaged and green lanes explored in preparation for revenge travel that is expected to ensue," Romulo-Puyat said. (PNA)