DOT upbeat about reaching 6M tourists in 2016
MANILA, Philippines — With visitor arrivals to the Philippines breaching the 5 million mark, officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT) remain upbeat on drawing even more tourists next year with projects lined up to improve the country’s airports and seaports.
Greater connectivity and service quality upgrade, according to DOT undersecretary for tourism development Benito Bengzon Jr., are the agency’s current focus to easily achieve next year’s target of 6 million tourists.
Bengzon pointed out that while the DOT has successfully built global awareness of the country as a whole, the agency would still work to create “a bigger demand for specific destinations,” hinged on the Philippines’ advantage of having multiple gateways.
Among such destinations are: Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, Palawan, Davao, Iloilo, and Siargao Island.
“It is part of the strategy of the DOT to position ourselves as a multiple-gateway destination. We have that unique advantage over the others because many countries in Southeast Asia, at best, only have three or four destinations,” the tourism official said.
“We are able to push eight destinations. This is why connectivity is very important,” he stressed and added that connectivity means better transportation facilities and infrastructure, thus, accessibility.
Bengzon said that the agency has become focused on complementing the marketing strategy with infrastructure for greater connectivity and expanding our capacity to absorb visitors. Likewise, the DOT is looking to upgrade the quality of services delivered by frontliners in the tourism industry.
He said that while the country has faced challenges since 2010, including: the Quirino grandstand hostage crisis; supertyphoon Yolanda; foreign embassy-issued travel advisories; and the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) debacle that hit the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the tourism industry has remained strong.
From January to October this year, visitor receipts grew by 8.24 percent at P186.89 billion compared to the same period last year’s P172.66 billion.
Korea is still the top visitor spending market, followed by the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, China, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, India, and Taiwan. Korea also contributed the most number of arrivals at 1.1 million.
On December 21 the country’s 5 millionth visitor for 2015, Filipino-American Gabby Grantham, arrived at the NAIA terminal 2 on a Philippine Airlines flight from Los Angeles. She was surprised by officials of the DOT and the Bureau of Immigration with a bouquet and a VIP tour voucher for her next visit.
Looking forward, Bengzon assured the continuity of whatever project the DOT would undertake before the change in administration next year, saying that there would be a smooth transition with the plan in place and strategic infrastructure projects already embedded in the work programs of the Departments of Public Works and Highways and the Transportation and Communications.
“The overall framework is intact. In fact, now we are working for the next phase of tourism development for 2016. We call it the successor plan which will be from 2016 through 2025,” he said.
Bengzon further assured, “There will be a solid corps of technocrats and bureaucrats who will make sure the programs will be implemented.” SFM
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