The country's tourism sector will see greater movement among South East Asian travelers as the country expands its market in the ASEAN region by 2015, tourism experts said.
Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon of the Market Development Group of the Office for Tourism Development said the Philippines is the most improved country in Asia and the Pacific as recognized during the World Economic Forum.
“Philippine global ranking in 2013 is now 82, up by four notches from the 94th spot in 2011. In Asia-Pacific, our country is now number 16 , up by two notches from rank 18 in 2011,” Bengzon said during the Region I Tourism Convention held in Dagupan City.
Philippine tourism has also received several awards and international citations that tagged the country as the ‘rising star of tourism, hottest travel destination, top 20 destinations for 2014, most romantic destination, most tourist-friendly country and most googled destination, among others.
Bezonng said the achievement can be attributed to the country’s rich natural resources, price competitiveness, visa requirement and air services management.
For 2015, the tourism integration in the ASEAN market will hopefully increase the 4.7 million foreign visitors to the country. Of the number, 10 percent came from South East Asian countries, he said.
Bengzon said it is imperative that when the tourism sector develops or markets our country, it must come in a complete package – from the airports, processing, places to go, food, souvenirs, accommodation, infrastructure, transportation and most importantly, the people.
Raymond Astillas, senior trade and industry development specialist of the Department of Trade and Industry said in the same forum that integration in the ASEAN Economic Community is like an agency aiming for a certification from the International Standards Organization or ISO.
“When you want to get an ISO certification, you must level up, and if we do not set standards in all our facilities, we cannot level up,” Astilla said.
Some of the possible make-overs that the Department of Tourism proposed to do to keep up with the ASEAN integration include a convergence with the Bureau of Immigration and Public Works, increase in the number of flights, level- up standards of hotel accommodations and introduce new tourism destinations.
“If you are a foreign tourist who would want to go Manila, what do want to see? In promoting tourism, let us not think about Pangasinan competing with La Union or Region I competing with Region 4. Let’s think about the Philippines competing with other countries,” Bengzon said.
More Singaporean and Malaysian tourists are coming
The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Western Visayas said that the first ever WV Tourism Business Mission in Singapore and Malaysia brought in more tourists for the region.
In a media release, DOT-6 Regional Director Helen Catalbas said there is a reported increase in tourist arrivals from these two Southeast Asian countries particularly in Boracay Island.
An increase of 99.72 percent of Singaporean tourist arrivals was recorded in Boracay for the period January to September 2014. For Malaysian arrivals, the DOT reported a 187.52 percent increase for the same period.
Catalbas said the tourism business mission was held in Singapore and Malaysia last July 8 and 10, 2014.
The delegation from Western Visayas composed of representatives from the local government units of Guimaras, Negros Occidental, Malay in Aklan, and DOT Region VI along with several private sector representatives.
The event enabled the tourism officers and representatives to present their respective tourist attractions and facilities including their connectivity to these countries and their provinces to more than 100 travel agents and media representatives in both countries visited.
Meanwhile, Boracay remains to be one of the top tourism destinations in the country amid the encountered slump from the travel ban imposed by China in September, according to the DOT.
DOT-6 said that Western Visayas is gearing for the “Visit the Philippines” campaign for 2015. (MCA/(VHS/PIA-1Pangasinan)(JCM/LTP/PIA-Iloilo)