The Department of Tourism (DOT) will fall short of its expected 10 million foreign tourist arrivals this year by five million although the country gained more revenues from the fewer number who had visited the Philippines in the first half of the year.
DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez made the disclosure when his agency sought congressional approval of its proposed P3.6 billion budget for 2016.
Jimenez said there were 4.8 million foreign tourists who visited the country from January to June 2015, while domestic tourist arrivals reached 54 million.
While the agency expects an upward trend, he conceded that the peak figure for foreign tourist arrivals could only reach five million.
“I take personal responsibility for my optimism [of putting the target at 10 million]but the foreign tourist arrivals [are]not the sole determinant of success. We also have to look at the products of these arrivals: the revenues and the employment that we generate,” Jimenez said in response to the questioning of Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list on why the DOT missed its target so badly.
The DOT chief said there is a silver lining despite the missed target because foreign tourists are spending more and staying longer in the country.
According to him, the country earned $6 billion from the foreign tourists.
“Our targets on revenues and employment out of tourism are being met as we speak. The $6 billion income is not something we’ve foreseen. We would have needed eight million tourists to reach that figure. And that is because the length of the stay of the tourists here, which is around nine to 10 days and them spending $103 dollars per day,” Jimenez said.
“We now make more money from tourists than Thailand,” he added.
Atienza, however, snapped at Jimenez and underscored that those income figures are not an excuse for failing the 10-million target for foreign tourist arrivals.
“All the elements considered, you were short of 10 million, so you were short of the benefits [from the tourist arrivals]. It’s that simple. Wag niyo na paikot-ikutin [Don’t take us for a ride here],” he said.
Jimenez then cited that underdeveloped airport system in the Philippines was also a factor in missing the target, considering that not all the 83 airports across the country are functional for tourists.
“This underdevelopment was not initially felt because not too many people are travelling before, unlike now,” Jimenez pointed out.
But Atienza just would not back down.
“You have been in office for the past five years. Have you not done anything on our airports, on air traffic at least? It takes one hour before a plane can take off,” he said.