DOT Secretary Christina Frasco (PNA file photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco welcomes the Publicus Asia survey result which placed the tourism agency among top three government agencies with the highest approval rating nationwide.
 
The survey, conducted between Nov. 25 to 30 this year, also ranked the DOT eighth in terms of trust rating from the public.
 
“We are grateful for the Filipino people’s positive response and support for the work we have done in the past six months to usher in the recovery of the tourism industry,” Frasco said in a statement Wednesday. 
 
“Guided by the vision of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for tourism to be a strong engine of socio-economic growth, we are optimistic that just as we have greatly exceeded our targets this year, 2023 will usher in more record-breaking numbers, translating to more livelihood and employment opportunities for our fellow Filipinos. We are thankful for our continued partnership and collaboration with the hardworking men and women of the Philippine tourism industry from the public and private sectors across the country,” she said.
 
Targets for 2023
 
During the DOT's year-end media briefing held Monday at the Sheraton Hotel, Frasco said the department is targeting 4.8 million international visitors for 2023 as its baseline.
 
She said it is seeing its 2023 projections with full optimism as the industry targets have been recalibrated after exceeding the targets before year-end.
 
The DOT had initially projected 1.7 million tourist arrivals this year but the actual count recorded as of Dec. 19 has reached 2.46 million guests. 
 
Frasco said the department will close the year with a promising trajectory of 2.5 million visitor arrivals accounting to close to 30 percent of the industry’s pre-pandemic arrivals data when the Philippines recorded 8.3 million arrivals in 2019. 
 
She said the new projections are made with consideration of factors that are beyond the control of the department, such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, rising fuel prices, inflation and the continued lockdowns in China which, for the longest time, has been the top tourist market of the Philippines.
 
“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,” Frasco said.
 
“And 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,” she added. 
 
Priority goals for 2023
 
Frasco said part of the priority goals of the DOT for next year is fortifying its collaboration with other national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) in developing the country’s tourism portfolio and exemplifying the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence (FBSE) by training 100,000 tourism workers, a highest record set by far for the industry. 
 
The tourism chief on Wednesday inked a formal partnership with the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) to enhance the overall tourist experience at the established tourist centers around the country. 
 
The partnership, she said, would provide improved internet connectivity in at least 94 destinations all over the country and more digitalized tourism services.
 
In fact, the removal of the One Health Pass and redundant health checks at the country’s biggest and busiest gateways, as earlier lobbied by the DOT, has become key to surpassing the tourism targets of the DOT.
 
Frasco said the goal is to make travel seamless for all types of travelers, thus the launching of the E-arrival pass together with the DOT, DICT, Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Quarantine and Department of Health which integrates all the requirements of five government agencies into one platform. 
 
“It makes travel as convenient as possible for any Filipino or tourist coming into the country by removing any barriers that would otherwise dissuade tourists from coming into the Philippines,” she said. 
 
The department also launched two of its newest tourism programs -- the Philippine Travel Experience which would give tourists a window to discover the country’s tourism gems in over a hundred cities and more than a thousand municipalities by making it easy and convenient for them to book tour packages; and the Bisita, Be My Guest Program, wherein Filipinos can become ambassadors of tourism by providing incentives and exciting prizes to those who can successfully bring foreign friends or relatives into the Philippines. 
 
The DOT has also laid the groundwork for the Philippines to be more tourism-competitive in Asia and the world through the establishment of one-stop-shop tourist centers called Tourist Rest Areas (TRA) in 10 strategic locations across the country which are: Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon, Samal Island in Davao del Norte, Baguio in the Cordilleras, Dauis in Bohol;, Saud in Ilocos Norte, and Carcar, Carmen, Medellin and Moalboal in Cebu, and in January 2023, in Roxas, Palawan.
 
“Aside from diversifying our products in arts and film tourism, we are also developing the country’s existing tourism products including dive and marine sports tourism, education, health and cruise tourism, food and gastronomy tourism, culture and heritage tourism, MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) tourism and halal tourism,” she said.
 
Frasco said the DOT is set to enter into a formal agreement with the Department of National Defense (DND) in relation to the efforts to fully open up Mindanao as a tourism wonder and improve the region’s halal program.
 
This would primarily provide equal access to developments across all areas of the region and encourage more visitors to visit the unexplored virgin island beaches and exotic destinations in Mindanao, she said.
 
More jobs for Filipinos
 
In terms of increasing employability in the sector, Frasco said the DOT has collaborated with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), in the launching of the Trabaho, Turismo Asenso! Program last September in the National Capital Region (NCR), Cebu and Davao to fill in the gaps in the tourism workforce. 
 
The collaboration has aggregated 157 tourism-related companies and offered a total of 8,310 jobs with 9,000 cumulative registrants.
 
Tourism training sessions have also been conducted for 25,770 industry stakeholders from tourism-related establishments, Community Based Tourism Organizations (CBTOs), local tourism officers and members of the academe to equip them with the needed knowledge and skills for the advocacy programs of the sector toward a sustainable, resilient and inclusive Philippine tourism.
 
In 2023, Frasco said the department has set the goal of training 100,000 tourism workers in the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence across the nation’s 16 regions in line with the vision of making the Philippines the center for hospitality excellence in Asia. (PR)