THE Department of Tourism (DOT) has set a tourism revenue target of between $6 billion and $8 billion by 2016 under its National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), which aims to attract more international tourists to visit and spend while in the country.
“Realistically, were looking at the 6-million (tourist arrivals) mark,” Benito Bengzon Jr., undersecretary for tourism development, told reporters. For tourism revenue, “we’re hoping it’s anywhere in the range of $6 to $8 billion,” he added.
He explained that the NTDP set its target for 2016 in terms of tourism revenue and employment generation, which it considers as the important performance indicators.
“Now that we have reached what we call a critical mass, we can now shift to getting the high-yield markets, meaning we are n ow focusing on revenue. At the end of the day, what is important is the economic benefits that the country gets,” the official explained.
“We have placed more emphasis on going after the high-yield tourist market, which includes, among others, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Russia, EU aside from the UK and Germany, you have France and Spain, and also closer here, from Southeast Asia; we’re [also]looking at a certain segment of the Japanese market,” Bengzon said.
In February, the DOT said it was focusing more on generating more revenues and providing more employment rather than scrambling to get 10 million visitor arrivals next year.
Earlier, DOT Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez said, “The 10 million in theory is possible. But we’re sharply focused now on revenues because that’s the real result. We are determined to meet revenue and employment targets.”
“We’re hoping to get it to as close as 6 million arrivals as possible, and, therefore, you will be approaching the 6-million mark by 2016. Probably more since last year, we’ve had almost 5 million visitors. We started in 2010 with revenues of less than $3 billion. If we are able to double the business, that’s good,” Jimenez said.
“As a general rule in the hospitality business, hotels get what you call the purest income. In a more detailed sense, it is the travel industry–the agents, the airlines. We are actually making more money than the actual numbers, so our revenues are very strong. We are getting the tourists to stay longer. That’s a better accomplishment, harder work,” he said.
Despite the tension with Beijing and its blanket ban on travel to the Philippines because of the territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea, Chinese arrivals continue to rise.
Jiminez also said that by the end of 2014, there was growth of almost 16 percent in Chinese arrivals and that the Hong Kong business is gradually growing
“The DOT is very happy because it expected the drop to be serious, but I still have growth and because all our major markets are growing again, Taiwan is growing again, the US market, Japan, and others,” he said.
The other problem the Philippine tourism industry will have to face is the effect of the Mamasapano incident on Mindanao tourism.
According to Jimenez, “We still need to promote and help Mindanao.”
Building greater awareness
“We have what we call site-specific advertising now. Not just in general about the Philippines. We are building greater awareness. Advertising is more focused on Davao, Cebu, and Baguio. We’re getting people to be familiar with more places in the Philippines to see more things,” Jimenez said.
What the DOT is trying to improve on are basic products involving communities and skills within the hospitality industry and the travel industry.
“Now we are a new player in ecotourism and agri-tourism. We’re starting out in all of those but I wouldn’t describe them as the centerpiece,” Jimenez said.
“We are more traditional in approach but since we have a beautiful country, it is almost impossible not to focus on ecotourism,” he said.
Koreans are still the top visitors to the Philippines, with over a million arrivals a year, followed by the US, Japan, China, and Australia. Total tourist arrivals reached 4.83 million in 2014.