Three months to go on and the Filipino Presidency of Benigno Aquino will be over as the country is called for a Presidential election on May 9. The outgoing President declared during ASEAN Travel Forum opening ceremony that his departure will finally give him the opportunity to enjoy again being a true tourist with enough time to visit the Philippines, the Department of Tourism can look back proudly to Philippines tourism achievement over the last five years.
Just to mention the extremely successful campaign of the DOT “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”, started in 2011 by State Secretary for Tourism Ramon Jimenez Jr. which has been not only awarded for its creativity but also for rising the number of travellers to the country. “We grew last year by over 10% international arrivals with a record of 5.36 million tourists. And we expect again another 10% growth in 2016 with an objective of reaching 12 million travellers by the end of the decade”, highlights Arturo Boncato, Assistant Secretary of Tourism. The campaign “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” helped changing the perception of the 7,000 islands archipelago in the mind of international travellers. “We gain international recognition all across the globe with numerous awards given now to our country. TripAdvisor ranked Boracay as the Best Beach for White Sand; Palawan was named the world’s best island by Conde Nast Traveler while National Geographic Traveller named the Philippines the “must-see destination” of 2016″, indicated Boncato.
Commitment towards tourism by the current government is also shown in infrastructure development, Philippines biggest hurdle to its economic – and consequently tourism- well-being. “We know how important it is to offer a good road network, good airports and upgraded seaports to let tourism spread all across the archipelago and bring benefits to all Filipinos. The situation at Manila international airport for example pushed the Benigno Aquino government to speed up the modernization of secondary airports as well as implementing an open sky policy for second-tier destinations. They are new airports or new terminals currently in construction in Kalibo, Bohol Island, Puerta Princesa in Palawan or in Cebu where a private company is building a brand new facility due to opening in 2018″, added the Assistant Secretary.
Cruise ports are also being developed all across the country, particularly in Manila, Cebu, Palawan or Boracay. Cruises are booming into the country. From a total of only 10 vessels calls in 2011, the Philippines recorded 54 calls in 2014 while 2015 saw a new record at 70 cruise calls. The DOT worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs and the Department of Justice to facilitate the arrivals of travellers into the country by speeding up entrance formalities, especially by integrating technologies linked to the Advance Passenger Information System.
More could have been done of course but Philippines’ political world is not always moving at the desired speed… As the Aquino government is now experiencing its last weeks in power, it also wants to set fundamentals to make permanent its engaged policies in tourism. ” We will adopt during the first half of the year our National Development Plan which is also setting the directions for tourism. The Aquino administration might go but the right policy’s frame will be there”, stressed Arturo Boncato. The best legacy of the outgoing administration will be to have turned tourism into an object of pride for all Filipinos and also into a major sector of the national economy.