Tourism First!


Tourism First!
Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta
Department of Tourism
Opening speech,  Philippine Tourism and Transportation Summit
Manila Hotel, 22 June 1999


In behalf of President Joseph Estrada , the Department of Transportation and Communications (with Secretary Vicente Rivera at its helm))  and  the Department of Tourism, I am happy to welcome all of you to this first ever, truly historic assembly, the Philippine Tourism and Transportation Summit.

To our foreign guests, led by a former Secretary of Tourism of Indonesia, thank you very much for making an effort to come , your contributions to this summit will be invaluable. To the members of the private and public sectors of the tourism industry who are, in fact, the pillars of the industry, thank you for honoring our invitation.

Certain interest groups are spreading the rumor  that I have formed a cabal for the “Open Skies” policy  and that the purpose of this summit is to ram through “Open Skies.”  The truth is, none of us came here to champion pre-determined  advocacies. It was President Estrada himself who gave the go-signal for this summit. We are here to identify problems that beset tourism; we are going to exchange ideas and experiences and debate current issues. At the end of this 2-day summit, we should be able to submit to the President a list of our recommendations that will hopefully guide him as he decides on what  policies to pursue for the ultimate good of transportation and  tourism. As you know, these two industries are  vital to  the national economy.

In the next two days, we are going to discuss ways and means to create a seamless transportation system that can transport tourists safely and efficiently by land, sea and air. Deficient  Infrastructure and fragmented transportation are detrimental to tourism development.

We will have to talk about aviation policies in the Philippines. We are going to poke at the elephant in the room because 98 per cent of our foreign visitors come by air. There are die- hard advocates of “Open Skies” in this very hall, just as there are aviation groups who are protectionists.  I believe, there is a middle ground and the President himself said that he prefers a “progressive liberalization” policy.

The Department of Tourism has one battle cry—Tourism First! –because it is the fastest way for the national economy to recover.  Tourism has astounding multiplier effect for it generates   jobs for Filipinos of all ages and genders in various business and entrepreneurial sectors of the country. I will not even mention the billions of pesos that tourism can contribute to the national coffers, its per centage of the GDP.

Tourism First!—because by travelling around the country as domestic tourists, Filipinos will rediscover their history, heritage and culture and feel a certain pride of place. Filipinos who are proud of their country make the best front liners of the industry.

Our target to is increase foreign tourist arrivals to 4.4 million by the end of President Estrada’s administration. To meet  this modest target, we  need the full support of the Philippine Airlines(PAL), which is supposed to be the national flag carrier, as well as the support of local carriers and foreign airlines. The times call for sharing and cooperation.

In recognition of PAL’s major role in Philippine tourism, we are asking the national carrier to actively participate in the “Balikbayani” and “Discover Your Roots” international promotions  which are part of the Estrada administration’s “Rediscovery” Tourism Program.

During this summit let us address the deficiencies of our land, sea and air transportation in order to establish seamless travel throughout the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands. We are all stakeholders of tourism—government, public and private sectors, investors and entrepreneurs—so we must work together to make tourism viable and sustainable.

In this spirit then, let us begin our deliberations.