TOURISM CHIEF URGES FOCUS ON ENVIRONMENT

Sustaining momentum crucial

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STOP focusing on the number of foreign tourists visiting the Philippines, and concentrate instead on protecting the environment, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. told reporters on the sidelines of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) forum in Legazpi City, Albay Province on Friday.

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“Let’s not get preoccupied by numbers, let’s focus on the environment and sustainability and keeping the momentum going because we can’t deny tourists are coming. But the question is, are we ready?” Jimenez said.

The DOT is still targeting 10 million foreign tourists by 2016, even if it is difficult to reach under the current administration, the Cabinet official noted.

“Because we all know we have very serious setbacks like Yolanda and some irritants in diplomatic relations in a big country which affected tourist arrivals, but we are expecting that we will almost double [the arrivals]where we were when we started [in 2010],” he said.

Back then, Jimenez said that foreign tourists coming in were only 3 million. The number can surpass 6 million by the end of 2015. “It may not be as high as we wanted, but we are twice where we were before,” he said.

In terms of revenue, the Tourism chief said the Philippines is doing well. “We are beyond our targets. The Philippine tourism industry, in terms of foreign arrivals alone, is worth nearly close to $6 billion by the end of President Aquino’s term. In employment, almost 6 million directly employed. This does not include those indirectly employed.

Tourism accounts for 8 percent of the total gross domestic product, and is the third largest dollar- earning industry after semi-conductors and IT-business process management industry.

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