A recent study of a Brisbane-based marketing agency, Dejan Marketing, showed that most Australians associate the Philippines to beaches.
But for hospitality expert Bill Barnett, the Philippines is more than about finding an isolated patch of sand and sinking into a sun-kissed stupor.
The 7, 0701 islands offer an array of picturesque sceneries, rich culture and adventures for backpackers if only the government will be able to lead them to other attractions.
“You can’t stay there if you can’t get there,” Barnett told The Manila Times.
He stressed the need to develop regional airports and build more infrastructure projects, such as hotels and roadways, to drive tourists to other attractions.
“The Philippine tourism shouldn’t be just about the beach. I think that’s an old way of looking at tourism,” said Barnett, who heads the Thailand-based hospitality consulting firm C9 Hotelworks.
“The Philippines is much more. Today, travelers want to have authentic experiences. They like foods, sports, wellness and different kinds of experiences because they want to discover and not just stay in their hotel room,” he added.
Barnett said incoming Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo will face a tough challenge to take forward the “It’s More Fun In The Philippines” campaign of the outgoing administration that had been successful in promoting the country’s attractions.
“You have other areas, like the mountain areas, which should be reinvented,” he said. “These are the things that need to be captured and perhaps the new phase of that is to, again, how to get there?”
Barnett claimed the previous administrations had failed to continue the good tourism plan of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
“In some ways, politics aside, the tourism plan during the Marcos time was quite forward looking. It wasn’t bad because…there was an infrastructure backbone. There had been many good tourism plans over the years but the problem is, you choose to change them,” he said.
Business leaders on Tuesday urged the incoming Duterte Administration to develop transport networks across the country in a bid to improve the economy and business environment.
Businessmen want the next leader to prioritize the development of airports, seaports, and mass transit projects such as the North-South Railway, C-6 Expressway, Cebu Bus Rapid Transit and Davao port projects.
Barnett opined that the incoming leaders should not forget solving the infrastructure issues in Metro Manila.
“First, the most important thing is Manila. Manila is the gateway. There’s a [problem]in Manila airports and it’s the biggest barrier in tourism,” he said.
“Tourists don’t just arrive on your doorsteps. If you want more tourists, you have to encourage them. It should be the national agenda for the government to reach the market,” he added.