THE next administration should take advantage of the initial gains of the tourism industry to generate more jobs and income opportunities, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said Monday.
Marcos aired the call following the Department of Tourism’s report that tourist arrivals hit the five million mark in December. The department expressed confidence that tourist arrivals next year could reach six million.
“Although that is still far from the original target of 10 million tourist arrivals by 2016, these initial projections reflect we are gaining ground in our efforts to promote the Philippines as a top tourist destination,” the senator said.
Marcos however warned that tourist arrivals will not increase unless the next administration vigorously pursues tourism-related infrastructure projects such as new airports, upgrading of existing ones, and adding sea ports and other road projects.
“These facilities leave a lasting impression on tourists. How can you expect anybody to recommend that a friend visit the Philippines if his arrival here was delayed because of runway congestion, if he found the airport comfort rooms dirty, or if they got stuck for hours in traffic?” the senator said.
He also stressed the need to train tourism industry workers and businesses to make the country more tourist-friendly.
“I don’t think it would be too difficult to achieve given the legendary hospitality of Filipinos, most of whom can also speak English,” Marcos, who is running for Vice President in 2016, said.
The lawmaker has been pushing to strengthen the country’s tourism industry because it contributed a large part in the economic development of Ilocos Norte during his stint as three-term governor of the province.
He cited a report of the World Travel and Tourism Council saying that Southeast Asia posted the second fastest growth in travel and tourism in 2015 at seven percent, next to South Asia which posted a 7.7 percent growth.