There is at least one thing that all countries of ASEAN share together at ATF 2013: a positive evolution of their tourism! The Philippines was no exception to it. Under-Secretary of State for Tourism Benito Bengzon Jr. indicated during a press conference in Vientiane that the Philippines surpass for the first time the fourth-million international arrivals into the country. “We set up a new record of 4.27 million visitors, up by 9.1% over the previous year. We were slightly short of our target of 4.5 million but this shows an excellent evolution,” he stated.
Northeast Asia continues to be the bulk of Philippines tourist arrivals with a market share of 47.7%. Surprisingly, despite political tensions with China which translated into a partial boycott of the destination by Chinese travellers, total arrivals from the Mainland continued to grow last year.“We saw a plus of over 3% in 2012, translating into 251,000 Chinese visitors to our country. Since peaceful negotiations started with our Chinese neighbours, we see the situation normalizing rapidly. We have again many charter flights coming from China, especially to Kalibo, near Boracay,” indicated Benito Bengzon Jr.
Philippines success hangs a lot to the new State Secretary for Tourism Ramon R. Jimenez, a former advertising executive, who reshaped last year the tourism department with a new campaign, “It is more fun in the Philippines”. The dynamic tagline is supported by an increase in the budget for tourism promotion. “The budget is now tripled, from 10 to 30 million US dollars on an annual basis”, explained Benito Bengzon Jr.
There has been also a concerted coordination between the Department of Tourism, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways. “Improving infrastructure is of utmost importance and we are conscious that the Philippines is confronted with many shortcomings when we talk about transport infrastructure. How can we attract more tourists if we cannot provide them with good infrastructure such as hotels or air facilities? ” told the Under-secretary.
A program of national highways is being pushed as well as improving airport’s infrastructure. “We now have expansion at many airports such as Puerto Princesa in Palawan or in Cebu. The Department of Civil Aviation is also installing new night landing instruments at 14 airports including Manila. It will then help to relieve congestion by extending operational hours at our airports,” indicated Mr. Bengzon. They are now a dozen of new hotels in the pipeline, especially on Luzon Island –where Manila is located- but also in Davao, Boracay, Palawan and Cebu, some of the most popular destinations in the country. In total, some 15,000 rooms will be added to a total of 180,000 available rooms throughout the country.
The Philippines is now targeting five million arrivals in 2014 and is confident that it will reach before the end of the decade 10 million arrivals. “We might not reach that figure. But we have the strong ambition to achieve it!” declared the Under-Secretary.