EDITORIAL – Tourism roadmap | Philstar.com


The Philippine Star

January 30, 2023 | 12:00am

It’s good to know that the government is considering a five-step tourism roadmap drawn up by the private sector to enhance the country’s appeal as a travel destination. The Philippines has world-class natural and man-made tourist attractions, yet the country has long trailed its Southeast Asian neighbors, including tiny city-state Singapore, in terms of travel arrivals and tourism receipts.

The roadmap, prepared by the Private Sector Advisory Council and discussed with President Marcos last week, reportedly aims to promote tourism investments, strengthen domestic tourism, expand tourism infrastructure, improve the national brand and boost the contribution of travel and tourism to economic development.

Promoting tourism investments and upgrading tourism infrastructure alone are challenging enough. Across all economic sectors, including producers of eggs, onions and salt, players complain about red tape and difficulties in doing business in this country. This is despite the enactment of two laws to cut red tape and promote ease of doing business.

Politicians whose families are engaged in tourism-related enterprises also hinder competition, especially if they hold government positions with control over business activities. Infrastructure development also tends to favor those with political connections.

Tourism infrastructure starts at the country’s gateways. The tough challenge in this area was highlighted by the shutdown of Philippine airspace on the first day of the year, after the NAIA air navigation system got fried reportedly due to a faulty circuit breaker. The “technical issue” at the NAIA is just an aspect of the wider problem of poor air connectivity. For many years now, this problem has contributed to low tourist arrivals in the country compared to those of its neighbors.

Once in the Philippines, travelers must also contend with inadequate mass transportation and spotty telecommunications service – a key requirement for the typical traveler these days. Other travelers cite the inadequacy of emergency health facilities even in top tourist destinations.

The government is expanding the e-visa program to travelers from China, India, Japan and South Korea. Personal safety must also be assured for travelers. The government cannot ignore warnings that Chinese tourists, who are just starting to resume traveling after Beijing lifted its restrictive COVID-zero policy, will avoid going to a country where they risk being kidnapped for ransom by their criminal-minded compatriots linked to Philippine offshore gaming operations.

Tourism is a priority economic sector for many countries. It can create the types of meaningful jobs and livelihood opportunities that can make it unnecessary for Filipinos to seek employment overseas. With the private sector leading the initiative, and the President himself wielding a conductor’s baton, travel and tourism can be a key driver of Philippine economic growth.


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