Improving competitiveness in tourism

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In 2013, the Philippines advanced by five rungs in world tourism competitiveness ratings, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). The 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report reported the Philippines ranking 16th regionally and ranking 81st among 130 countries surveyed. The Philippines was also listed as the most improved country in the region, being the only Asean nation registering a significant improvement.

With the outlook for the Philippine travel and tourism industry remaining positive, other industries are also expected to benefit, from transportation to recreational and lodging facilities, cultural centers, and a wide constellation of community-based handicraft makers and local scenic attractions.

Luke Myers, counsellor and head of Cooperation of the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines, said the government of Canada, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) is implementing an international development program aimed at supporting the Philippine government to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth. The tourism industry has been identified as a priority sector of the government’s agenda because of its potential to contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Among the country’s comparative strengths, as per WEF, are its natural resources (44th), its price competitiveness (24th), and a very strong—and improving– prioritization of the Travel & Tourism industry as seen in government spending. The DOT’s “Its more fun in the Philippines” branding campaigns are seen to be increasingly effective.


However, the report also cited areas that have been holding back the potential of the industry to achieve improved competitiveness, Myers said. These are the difficulty of starting a business in the country, in both cost and length of the business process (ranked 94th and 117th, respectively); safety and security concerns (103rd); inadequate health and hygiene (94th); underdeveloped ground transport, tourism, and ICT infrastructure; and the availability of qualified labor (108th).

Through the Canada-supplied technical assistance in Improving Competitiveness in Tourism, the Canadian government hopes to further contribute to improving Philippine competitiveness in tourism through interventions that support a regulatory review, raise service standards and develop skills.

The hotel accreditation system, to be piloted in four pilot areas – Cebu, Bohol, Davao and Palawan, adopts a star grading system from 1 to 5 stars. The system and the standards that it sets are in line with the most recent international developments in hotel quality assurance in some of the world’s most successful destinations. Standards are focused on the intrinsic quality of the facilities and services provided by hotels and resorts rather than the simple availability of these facilities.

The pilot project goes a step further as it tests new, additional, and much more detailed standards looking at the quality of service and hospitality, and also the quality of food – the produce and the standard of cooking. There are many benefits in the adoption of this new system. The range and quality of the country’s accommodation and the services and amenities the accommodation offers are critical in making the Philippines a travel destination of choice, which can boost the tourism industry’s competitiveness and help the tourism department attain its tourism targets. For the hotel and resort operators, the system flags the areas requiring improvements and those that are meeting the standards. This should help the operators make investment decisions in favor of destinations that wants their accommodation to move up and graduate to a higher star rating. For the travellers, the system guides them to make an informed decision on where to stay based on the services, facilities and amenities they require given their respective budgets.

The technical assistance is designed as part of a comprehensive package of support to the Philippine government under ADB’s flagship program Improving Competitiveness for Inclusive Growth through employment generation. The ADB believes the tourism sector is a crucially important channel for creating decent jobs, incomes, and promoting inclusive growth because of its strong linkages with other sectors of the economy and its wide geographic reach in the provinces. There are three expected outputs from this project: policy reforms to promote competitiveness, creating an efficient market for infrastructure thru PPPs, and promoting competitive labor markets. It is also designed to produce measurable impact in three areas: improving the cost of doing business, skills development through matching grants scheme, and support for piloting the new hotel and resorts Star Rating standards in the four pilot areas.

Under the Hotel and Resorts Quality Assurance and Accreditation System, DOT recruited 10 International Assessors (IAs) to support the process. The IAs will undergo orientation along with DOT Area Officers and industry third party auditors in preparation for joint pilot assessments.

One hundred fifty hotels and resorts will undergo the quality assessment activity against DOT standards. Apart from focusing on quality over and above the provision of facilities, the project will also zero in on the service, hospitality, efficiency and food provided by the pilot hotels and resorts. Accommodation businesses will also be graded according to their environmental practices, comparative review against international quality assurance systems and wider guest experience even before the customers arrive at the hotel or resort until their departure.

Thanks to the Canadian government for this grant. Now, if we can only fix that damn aircon in the airport!

God is Great!

thelmadm@yahoo.com

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1 Comment

  1. First impressions are important too. I wish the airport would bar the taxi sharks from taking advantage of foreigners that leave the NAIA. This is a real problem.