By Joe Zaldarriaga

Strengthening Philippine tourism

October 10, 2023, 9:40 am

With the accelerating shift towards greater normalcy after the pandemic, new opportunities for recovery and growth are opening across different industries—particularly those badly hit by the global crisis.

Here in the Philippines, tourism is among the sectors that have steadily recovered with new prospects for development and growth in the line of sight.

Just recently, the Department of Tourism (DOT) reported that the Philippines has recorded over four million international arrivals in the first nine months of 2023. The positive development, according to the DOT, places the country on track to meet its full-year target of 4.8 million foreign arrivals—which is likely to be exceeded given the upcoming holiday season. Tourism has so far contributed PHP344 billion in revenues to the economy, according to Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, who emphasized the need for a developmental approach to improving the industry in the post-pandemic world.

With the renewed interest and confidence in travel across the world, the Philippines has the advantage of further elevating its tourism industry to become the top destination of choice not just for leisure and adventure but for other offerings too, such as health and wellness, sports, food, and heritage among others.

To unlock the immense potential of Philippine tourism in the new normal, the DOT must be strongly equipped with the necessary funding so that it can effectively develop and implement programs for the improvement of the industry.

In fact, despite its limited budget, the DOT has made great strides this year with projects that further elevated the quality of Philippine tourism in line with global trends and the growing focus on sustainability.

But the DOT can do more if it receives additional funding and thankfully, many of our lawmakers recognize this. During the recent public hearing at the Senate on the proposed DOT budget for 2024, Secretary Frasco appealed for a reevaluation of the agency’s allocation of PHP2.99 billion which is much lower than its 2023 provision of PHP3.7 billion.

Given the renewed confidence in travel, tourism offers many opportunities for growth and development in the immediate post-pandemic world. As Secretary Frasco mentioned, Philippine tourism has immense potential to be a top socio-economic tool for development to provide livelihood and employment to Filipinos—and this can be harnessed effectively if the DOT has the arsenal to do so.

Sadly, it would be a waste of tourism opportunity and potential if the proposed budget cut for the DOT were to push through. After all, developing a strong tourism industry requires funding to have a solid ecosystem for the maintenance of attractions and destinations, a robust security and safety infrastructure in tourist spots, highly skilled and trained workers, stable and reliable electricity service in top destinations, and an effective heritage preservation program.

Tourism development requires continuous investment, that, if sustained properly, can result in a wide range of socio-economic benefits for our country. Aside from providing more jobs to Filipinos and serving as an investment vehicle, tourism also brings prestige and honor to the Philippines.

For example, the recent successful co-hosting of the Philippines of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup showed the world that our country is open for business and that we can be a top destination of choice for sports tourism.

In the post-pandemic world, our tourism offerings should not be limited to pristine beaches and natural attractions alone. With a well-equipped DOT, we can unlock more of the country’s tourism potential by developing other facets such as food, culture, pilgrimage, and conferences and exhibitions.

In promoting “Love the Philippines” on the global stage, we must remember that it takes a collective effort to preserve, progress, and present the best of our country to the world—and this all starts with being equipped with the sufficient and necessary resources and tools to do so.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.