PHILIPPINE TOURISM IS A SLEEPING GIANT
P500 BILLION CAN BE RAISED FOR THE ECONOMY
GORDON: PHILIPPINE TOURISM IS A SLEEPING GIANT
As the nation opens the summer vacation season, Senator Richard J. Gordon, former Tourism Secretary and now Chairman of the Senate Committee on Tourism, reiterated his appeal for full support of the country’s tourism industry. “Even with the boom in tourism we’re experiencing now, the industry has yet to reach its full potential. It is a sleeping giant that can generate jobs and opportunities for everyone,” he said.
“It means jobs and opportunities, not just for the waiters and bellboys, or the restaurateurs and hoteliers, but the carpenters and engineers that will build the resorts and hotels, the vendors and the taxi drivers on the streets, and even the bankers and lawyers that will help bring in big investments. This is the power of tourism,” Gordon said.
The Department of Tourism had earlier announced that there were 2.623 million tourist arrivals to the Philippines in 2005, surpassing the 2.5 million target it set earlier that year.
Gordon however said that, “The 2.6 million arrivals were expected. In fact, it could have happened much earlier if we didn’t have to contend with SARS, 9/11, disasters, terrorist kidnappings and bombings. But the 2.6 million was achieved because of reforms we began, continuing and strengthening international promotions, so the world can know us and appreciate what we have to offer, thus investing in tourism growth over the last five years.”
He emphasized, however, that this is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2005, the World Tourism Organization reported that there were 808 million tourist arrivals in the whole world. With such a size of the global market, the Philippines accounts for less than 1%. “But we know how beautiful our country and culture are. The question is, are we ready to compete in the big time? Tourism is a global business. Are we ready to compete not just with Phuket and Bali or Hong Kong and Singapore, but with Paris, Rome, Madrid And new York?”
“The Philippine tourism sector is a sleeping giant, and we hope we can awaken it with the Tourism Act of 2005,” Gordon pointed out. “If we increase our arrivals from 2.6 to 10 million, the country can raise around $10 billion or P500 billion annually enough to power our economy, pay our foreign debt, and sustain our educational and health needs.”
“If we want to compete, we need fundamental reforms. We can aim for 10 million in a few years if we wanted to, if we truly set our minds to it. If Thailand or Malaysia can hit 12 or 15 million, we can definitely hit 10 million.” said Gordon.
Gordon added that study after study has been made on how to reform the tourism sector. He stated that many of the proposals there have been incorporated into the SB 2138.
“We have consulted the major players in the industry. We are doing our best to address all the issues of the tourism industry and the various sectors. But the big picture is simply this: we have to make our tourism globally competitive not because we are cheap, but because of the beauty of our country and our culture, and because we give a truly world-class experience,” he stated.
The senator also believed that tourism presents a real and genuine opportunity for our country to generate jobs and investment across the board and thus come closer to eliminating poverty.
“We must remember that that where tourism advances, poverty retreats,” Gordon said.