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MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Tourism launched on Thursday a national blueprint that seeks to address the key challenges in developing the tourism sector, in a bid to increase the sector’s share in the country’s total economic output.
Unveiled at an agency-hosted forum during the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank, the National Tourism Development Plan calls for the total investment of P265 billion over five years, from 2011-2016, for the country to be able to reach its target arrivals of some 10 million international and 35.5 million domestic tourists by 2016.
The forum was attended by industry stakeholders including representatives from hotel and accommodations, travel agencies, airline representatives, etc.
Of the amount, government’s share is P74 billion for the duration of the five-year master plan, with the largest chunk or P50 billion to build roads and airports, explained Rolando Canizal, DOT Director for the Office of Tourism Planning, Research, and Information Management. For this year, P3 billion has been allotted for roads and airports construction, and P17 billion in 2013.
The plan also “cuts up” the country into 20 clusters, nine of which have been identified as priority clusters for investment and development, based on the “identification of secondary gateways as premier entry points” to these areas, said Daniel Corpuz, DOT Undersecretary, Tourism Planning and Promotions during his presentation of the plan.
These nine priority clusters include Central Visayas, Metro Manila and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Central Luzon, Palawan, Western Visayas, Davao Gulf and Coast, Northern Mindanao, Bicol, Laoag-Vigan.
Corpuz noted that there were some obstacles to the attainment of the plan’s goals and targets among which are the “uncompetitive tourist destinations and products; limited flights and seat capacities including the poor quality and limited capacity of international and domestic transportation and infrastructure destination, as well as other restrictions that have limited market access; and weak public sector tourism governance and human resources development policies and practices.”
To overcome these challenges, he stressed that strategic directions and programs that will be undertaken in the plan are: the development and marketing of competitive tourist products and destinations; improvement of market access, connectivity, and destination infrastructure; and improvement of tourism institutional, governance, and industry manpower capabilities.
In his keynote address at the forum, DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said the plan is an “inventory of tourism attractions” in the country, the first time this has been done in the history of the agency.
He also defended the agency’s slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” against critics who said that the problems of the sector can’t be solved with just a tag line.
“Those who say that have limited knowledge of the persuasive power of words, of communications.”
The slogan, he said, “makes a compelling argument for choosing the Philippines as one of the world’s top tourist destinations. It is rooted in our competitive advantage, a ‘deliverable’, where Filipinos put genuine value in being able to participate to make their guests feel at home.” It is second nature to Filipinos, he said, to be hospitable and seize every opportunity to make guests’ every visit to his home successful.”
He added that the slogan has “energized” the system and “contains one thing that works so well in an open competition … it is the truth. It is about Filipinos and their infectious love of things the world tends to forget -- family, friends, and communion with God and nature.”
Jimenez stressed that initial efforts of the department has already started bearing fruit. In the first quarter of 2012, inbound tourism has jumped by 16 percent to 1.15 million. This, he said, brings the agency closer to its 4.6 million arrivals target for the year.
The increase is the market’s “quick response to promotion initiatives” -- arrivals from China, he said, grew by 77 percent, Korea 16 percent, Taiwan 37 percent, Australia 18 percent, the United Kingdom 2 1 percent, and Germany 18 percent.
The DOT has just undertaken its initial international tourism campaign by advertising the new country brand and slogan in CNN.
Funding for the advertising campaign -- estimated at P63 million -- will be shouldered by the DOT, and the Departments of Budget and Management, Finance, Trade and Industry, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
The DOT said the 30-second spots on CNN cost about P19,000 each.
With close to 4 million tourist arrivals in 2011, the country still ranks way behind its neighbors - Malaysia (25 million), Thailand (19 million), Singapore (13.2 million), Indonesia (7.6 million), and Vietnam (6 million).