Philippine Tourism: “ Back to  Basics”   Competitiveness


Philippine Tourism: “ Back to  Basics”   Competitiveness
Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta
4th National Tourism Councils Assembly
12 November 1998


On behalf of the administration of President Joseph Estrada and the Department of Tourism, I commend the work of this 4th National Tourism Councils Assembly. I thank you for the resolution embodying your collective concerns and recommendations on Philippine travel and tourism. Rest assured that these will be taken into account as we draft the tourism program for this administration.

It is a privilege to be invitedto your assembly today, even if my appointment as Secretary of Tourism has not yet been confirmed by the Commission of Appointments of the Senate. Be that as it may, I am taking to heart your proposals, as well as your counsel.

It is only fitting that once a year, the representatives of our tourism community—from Batanes to Tawi-tawi—do some travelling to come  together for their own convention. This is a good opportunity to review the progress of our labors at both local and national levels. It also gives us time for fellowship.

This 4th national assembly is significant considering that there is a new man in Malacanang and a new woman at the helm of your Department of Tourism. ( Of course, that all depends on the Senate’s C.A!) This does not necessarily mean a change of direction.As a believer in continuity,  I will discontinue only the programs that have wasted tax-payers’ money. There are real constraints today arising from the economic crisis  that must shape priorities and programs. Let me spell out the gist of our priorities, plans and programs. I strongly recommend that you include these in the agenda of your workshops and please  do not forget to send me your comments and recommendations.

“Back to basics” is the new priority

  • We will develop both domestic and foreign tourism but with emphasis on domestic tourism.
  • We will focus on improving tourism infrastructure for seamless travel; cleanliness and safety along the “Tourism Friendship Highway” are essential.
  • We will not waste budgets and resources on costly extravaganzas, but will focus on creating enduring tourism values.
  • We will select “anchor destinations” as gateways to the regions.
  • We will promote “community-based” tourism to enhance local history, cultures, cuisine, festivals and other traditions.
  • We will work closely with the private sector and ask for their support and guidance.
  • We will work closely with other government agencies like the Departments of Education, of Transportation and Communications, Environment and  the National Commission of Culture and the Arts.

Energetic action on these priorities will lead to the achievement of 4 million tourist arrivals by the time President Estrada’s  6-year term comes to a close.

With regard to “community-based” tourism, this means emphasizing our local communities and regions as the basic building blocks of tourism development. In previous years, the DOT placed much emphasis on staging international events in the country and on building large tourism estates in specially chosen areas. All these have their value, but I believe gains cannot be sustainable unless our local communities are fully engaged in the tourism effort.

One of our biggest selling points as a tourist destination is the incredible variety of our local communities, their cultures, traditional crafts, cuisine their natural treasures and resources. We should build up these assets to develop both domestic and foreign tourism. Let us include communities in the planning stage and make sure they share the rewards of tourism. Community-based tourism is environment -friendly  because communities will ensure that their natural landscape is not despoiled or plundered; local tourism councils will have an even more important role to play in our tourism development programs. We in the DOT see you as our indispensable partners in this effort.

About culture and history, you probably  know why these are important for tourism development. So many of our tourism facilities are copies of what you see in other countries, especially the countries of the Western world. We are forgetting that, since time immemorial , the basic motor of tourism development  and for shaping destinations are culture and history. We have been neglecting to develop the places where great events have taken place, is it because we have no “pride of place”?

At the international level, our primary goal is to make Philippine tourism globally competitive. We have to increase our share of the tourist traffic. However, we want to entice quality tourists, not the kind who are merely interested in sex tours and the like. The main bulk of the tourist market should consist of families on holiday, travellers who will spend at least a week in the Philippines and convention delegates. Significantly, about 35 per cent of tourists visiting our country come to bond with their friends and relatives.

The DOT considers the nearly 6 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), scattered all over the world, as a potent force for tourism promotions, so we will link our marketing efforts with existing Filipino associations in our main markets abroad. Needless to say, we will need more and better promotional brochures, publications and video materials detailing what our country has to offer.

I invite all our tourism councils at the regional provincial and municipal levels to coordinate with  the DOT so  your tourism assets can be included and highlighted in these promotional efforts. Lend us your talents and energies to the fulfillment of this vision. Let us use our imagination and our “ pride of place” to transform our local communities into memorable tourist destinations.

Tourism is a labor-intensive industry which creates jobs and opportunities. As the largest industry in the world today, its main beneficiary is the local economy. The tourism industry has  many backward linkages to trade, agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transportation, printing , cooking, food processing, etc. No industry could be more pro-business and pro-poor than tourism. This is why President Estrada attaches great importance to the success of our collective  efforts.

More power to all the tourism councils!