THE RECENTLY approved National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023-2028 will give a boost to the transformation and employment opportunities in the sector, the country’s top tourism official said.
“As a whole, the NTDP shall provide a guide for our regions as well in the efforts of our President to spread countrywide development through tourism,” Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Christina G. Frasco said in a statement on Thursday.
“And what our fellow Filipinos can expect is that they will be given the opportunity to have tourism employment via the development of tourism circuits and to continue to push for tourism across our regions and provinces,” she added.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. approved earlier this week the five-year plan, which aims to establish a Philippine tourism industry “anchored on Filipino culture, heritage and identity which aims to be sustainable, resilient and competitive in order to transform the country as a tourism powerhouse.”
The Department of Tourism (DoT) aims to generate 34.7 million tourism-related jobs and record 51.9 million international arrivals by 2028 as part of the NTDP’s targets.
Ms. Frasco said the NTDP would help address issues faced by the local sector, adding that tourism is one of the few industries that could generate opportunities and livelihoods in remote communities.
“So, it is by unlocking all of these roadblocks that we would be able to fully develop the tourism industry guided by the NTDP,” Ms. Frasco said.
For 2023, the DoT is eyeing to attract 4.8 million international tourist arrivals, P316 billion worth of inbound tourism revenue, and P1.93 trillion in domestic revenue.
As of May 15, the Philippines has logged 2.029 million international visitors, while P168.5 billion in visitor receipts were generated from January to April.
The Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), the industry’s private sector consultative body, is also upbeat about higher revenues from visitors.
“Globally, the trend is not just revenge travel, but what is also happening is revenge spending,” TCP President Roberto Z. Zozobrado said in a Viber message to BusinessWorld on Wednesday.
The DoT recorded P168.52 billion in inbound visitor receipts from January to April this year, almost eight times the over P19 billion generated in the same period last year when international borders were just reopened.
For 2022, total tourism revenue amounted to P1.74 trillion, which the industry expects to definitely surpass this year.
Mr. Zozobrado said he is optimistic that tourist arrivals and revenues will continue to increase, especially with certain Asia Pacific markets.
“Remember, China is just starting to show its strength in arrival numbers once again, and it’s known that they’re big spenders,” he said.
Ateneo de Manila University economics professor Leonardo A. Lanzona, however, cautioned that the valuable relief that the tourism sector is getting is largely arising from the people’s “hangover” from three years of on-and-off lockdowns.
“However, as the hangover wears out, it seems unlikely that travelers are going to increase spending consistently, and so these revenues are eventually going to diminish,” he said in an e-mail interview.
Loleth G. So, Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) president, said in a Viber call that while revenge travel won’t last forever, it’s a good way to “carry the wave and transition to a post-pandemic stage.”
“To be ready for the plateauing of revenge travel, we’re preparing to cater to the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) market — that will sustain occupancy levels and revenue,” Ms. So said.
In 2021, the tourism sector contributed 5.2% to the Philippines’ gross domestic product, a minimal rise from 5.1% in 2020. These contributions in the past two years are still significantly lower than the 12.7% seen in 2019.
According to Mr. Lanzona, the government should not just pour huge investments in tourism, but also in industry and technology-based sectors, which do not rely on labor to expand.
“The expansion of tourism remains dependent on labor and face-to-face transactions. That’s why it’s more productive to place investments in industry and technology, where capital itself creates output independent from the labor being employed,” he said.
HSMA’s Ms. So said that while the government is striving to improve infrastructure and technology in ways that will also benefit tourism, the sector itself must find ways to keep growing as revenge travel subsides.
This includes readying affordable stay and travel packages, contracting corporate accounts, and partnering with destination management companies, she said.
“It’s great for us that all this tourist spending is happening right now but, at the same time, we must prepare by laying the foundation already with our partners in business,” she added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave and Brontë H. Lacsamana