By Joe Zaldarriaga

Intensify efforts on tourism

February 7, 2023, 10:59 am

The tourism industry is a known key contributor to the Philippine economy. In fact, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas recognizes this sector as one of the biggest contributors to local employment.

In 2019, the tourism industry was accounted for 5.7 million jobs, representing 13.6 percent of the country’s total employment during the period.

But the emergence of the pandemic took a heavy toll on the tourism market, severely dampening revenue generation and employment following the closure of various businesses. It is only now under the watch of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the tourism industry began recovering.

Last year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) reported that international tourism arrivals rose to 2.6 million in 2022, surpassing its full-year target of 1.7 million arrivals. This also translated to a 2,465-percent jump in government revenues at PHP208.96 billion. The United States remained the top tourist market, followed by South Korea, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, India, Malaysia and China. Meanwhile, more than 628,000 were returning Filipinos.

Albeit still lower than the 8 million level prior to the pandemic, the jump in figures speaks good news to the economy. As a country heavily reliant on tourism, the surge in the number of arrivals will be a boon to employment and revenue generation for the country, something that we expect will be sustained under the watch of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., who, even before assuming presidency, has already shown strong support to ramping up the tourism sector.

Just last month, the president approved a proposal to refund taxes for foreign travelers and roll out electronic visas highly prioritizing the Chinese and Indian markets, both to boost foreign tourist arrivals. He also removed the One Health Pass entry requirement for travelers as well as the mandatory inclusion of travel tax on booking airfares to lessen the hassle of queueing up at travel tax booths inside airport facilities.

Just recently, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association Inc. mounted a three-day travel fair participated by 700 booths and exhibitors, including airlines, travel agencies, tour operators, hotels and resorts operators, food concessionaires, various government agencies, embassies, theme parks and entertainment, cruise liners, shipping firms, insurance companies, travel essentials retailers, as well as foreign-based travel agencies. The travel fair was expected to have lured 100,000 individuals.

This month, we will begin welcoming the arrival of cruise ships, the first being the Silversea Cruises of the Royal Carribean Group which is expected to dock on Feb. 10 in Palompon, Leyte and carry 400 tourists and 300 crews.

Other initiatives include the country’s participation in the 26th ASEAN Tourism Ministers Meeting, where the Philippines, through DOT Secretary Christina Frasco, expressed full support to improve accessibility among ASEAN member states.

Frasco said the Philippines would continue intensifying efforts to improve its gateways in terms of systems management, efficiency and as well as interior enhancements to present the “Filipino brand”.

The tourism industry is noticeably up for a boost, but the biggest challenge now hinges on how we can compete with our global peers to lure more tourist arrivals.

With the ability of a destination heavily reliant on tourist satisfaction, memorable experiences, and easier access, the public and private sectors must ramp up coordination to sustain tourism efforts, create more initiatives and campaigns, as well as develop the country’s international and domestic gateways for easier access to our travelers. After all, travels are supposed to be free of hassle.

Ultimately, our increased efforts will benefit mostly our economy and our people through more revenues and sources of income and will make our country more known to the global community. 

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.