MANILA – One hundred days into office, the Department of Tourism (DOT) under Secretary Christina Frasco has initiated measures to bring back tourism jobs while actively promoting the Philippines as a destination fully ready to welcome returning travelers.

These efforts, Frasco said, are in consonance with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s eight-point socio-economic agenda to fast-track the country's recovery.

Last September, some 8,305 job vacancies in 157 establishments were opened for displaced tourism workers and new graduates during the DOT-Department of Labor and Employment initiative "Philippine Tourism Job Fair: Trabaho, Turismo, Asenso".

Cebu leg of the Trabaho, Turismo, Asenso job fair. (Photo courtesy of DOT)

DOT also conducted 219 trainings from July 1 to Sept. 28, benefitting 7,603 tourism stakeholders, community-based tourism organizations and local tourism officers.

"These trainings include the advocacy programs for a sustainable, resilient and inclusive tourism industry such as the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence Program which aims to highlight the good in the Filipino tourism professional," Frasco said in an Oct. 1 department report.

Aside from employment, the DOT is also working to address issues on gateway access, lack of infrastructure and health and safety.

On Aug. 8, the agency together with the Department of Transportation (DOTr), agreed to form a technical working group to enhance the country's airports and seaports.

"Pursuant to the President's directive during his first SONA, the DOT and DOTr are jointly undertaking the enhancement of the country's gateways, international airports and seaports, piloting NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 2, Davao International Airport and Cebu Pier," Frasco reported.

"Developments and minor upgrades are underway, such as the installation of signage that will have a uniform look in all air and seaports, as well as the use of lighting, backdrop, and furniture that will distinctly reflect the 'Filipino brand,'" she added.

Within the past three months Frasco had also initiated a meeting with the DOTr for the resumption of pre-pandemic routes to minimize congestion in major ports as well as the opening of new local roads.


'Improving tourist experience'

To further improve the overall tourist experience, the DOT on Oct. 7 broke ground for the pilot rest areas across the Philippines, including Manolo Fortrich in Bukidnon, Samal Island in Davao del Norte, and Carmen and Medellin in Cebu.

Tourism Sec. Christina Frasco at the groundbreaking ceremony of a Tourist Rest Area in Bukidnon. (Photo courtesy of DOT Philippines)

The agency has also begun identifying key tourist destinations that need immediate development of health facilities to make sure tourists can tap for necessary help in case of accidents or untoward incidents during their vacation.

Frasco said the DOT, in coordination with the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), is undertaking a review of the country's health protocols "taking into consideration the current health situation, and benchmarking on the best practices of ASEAN countries."

In addition, the Philippines is developing its existing tourism products such as dive and marine sports tourism, education, health and cruise tourism, food and gastronomy, culture and heritage tourism, halal, and film and arts tourism.

The creation of the "tourism life cycle" app and a tourist hotline is also in the works to make travel easy and accessible to both local and foreign tourists.


'Destinations ready'

As early as August 2022, Frasco revealed DOT's plans to revisit the current tourism campaign and develop one that reflects the best qualities of the Philippines and the Filipino people.

This aligns with Marcos' State of the Nation Address, which highlighted the need to promote the "Filipino brand" that is anchored on the country's rich cultural heritage.

Over the last three months, Frasco also visited several countries and joined delegations led by no less than Marcos himself to entice tourists and investors to visit the Philippines.

With the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the agency is seeking to formalize and facilitate the following initiatives:

-- Renewal of Implementing Program on Tourism Cooperation with Thailand for 2022-2028
-- Crafting of a new Tourism Cooperation Agreement with Malaysia
-- Renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding on Tourism Cooperation with Brunei
-- Manila's hosting of Joint Working Group for the Implementation Program for Tourism Cooperation with South Korea

DOT also interacts with Israel, Japan, and the European Union to discuss potential partnerships in bringing tourists from and to the Philippines.

"Common initiatives on other progressive product and market developments are likewise discussed," Frasco said.

Frasco during the opening of the 11th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Tourism Ministerial Meeting in August 2022 (DOT photo)

A continuous upward trend in arrivals and receipts was recorded since the country reopened its borders to foreigners in February 2022. Based on DOT's latest data, a total of 1,620,221 inbound tourists visited the country this year, at least 806,077 were recorded from July 1 to Sept. 30.

"The DOT shares a positive outlook on the potentials of recovery for the tourism industry, as the country remains a top-of-mind destination among travelers," Frasco said.

"With the guidance and commitment of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the DOT is firmly set to build on our current gains, and work towards boosting our industry into becoming one of the major economic drivers of this administration," she added.

The DOT is currently formulating the National Tourism Development Plan for 2023-2028, which will serve as the blueprint of the tourism sector under the Marcos administration as well as the National Ecotourism Strategic Action Plan (NESAP) 2023-2028 as part of the country's pursuit of a green and blue economy. (PNA)