MANILA—There are several concerns hampering the tourism industry such as insufficient infrastructure, poor access roads, high hotel rates, lack of direct flights, travel advisories and the Department of Tourism (DOT) wants stakeholders to share their thoughts and ideas on how these can be addressed.
Stakeholders were encouraged by the DOT to discuss these concerns among many others during the first meeting of the recently revived Tourism Coordinating Council (TCC) in Mandaluyong City last week.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo stressed the need to revive the TCC in line with the Duterte administration’s policy of shared governance, specifically the DOT’s inclusive tourism program as part of the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2017-2022.
The TCC, which had not convened in the last two years, is mandated by the Tourism Act of 2009 to help address urgent issues in the country’s tourism industry and set the direction for the country’s tourism program.
It consists of 26 members including government line agencies and DOT attached agencies.
Teo said that inputs of representatives from other government agencies, the travel sector, and tourism stakeholders will be consolidated for incorporation to the NTDP and presented to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte for final approval.
“It is imperative that we collaborate as a team of stakeholders in the implementation of the NTDP and realize the government’s vision,” Teo said.
“We cannot sweep these issues under the rug. It is the mandate of the Tourism Coordinating Council to address such concerns,” she added.
Teo said that traffic congestion, destruction of historical sites, massive number of street dwellers, “colorum” tour guides and taxi services and travel package pricing were also discussed in the meeting.
She pointed out that travel and tour business, travel agents and tourists have complained about the expensive tour packages to the Philippines.
The Secretary said that neighboring countries in Southeast Asia and even Japan, sell reasonably priced packages, especially after a natural calamity or political upheaval so to entice tourists to visit after a crisis.
Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) president Cesar Cruz, however, explained that the prices of international airfares caused the increase of our tour package rates even if prices of ground arrangements went down.
Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) representative Leni Fabul, for her part, said that room rates need to be kept high because of high cost of energy and suggested to encourage more hotel investors to correct the room gap of about 75,000 more rooms for the next five years.
Local tourism stakeholders were also urged by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary for Planning and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Service Catalina Cabral to pinpoint exact places to be developed in a locality as new or less known tourist destinations.
Cabral said some 1,700 project requests are lined up and it is challenging to decide which of these requests should be given top priority in order to maximize efforts in designing and executing infrastructure development.
In addition, potable water system, energy sources and information technology facilities are being planned as part of tourism infrastructure development to be funded by the DPWH in convergence with the DOT.
As for sea travel, Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) president Rosanna Tuason-Fores said more jetty ports or small sea ports should be built in islands like Mindoro, which has 10,000 rooms but remain inaccessible to travelers.
Fores said more government incentives should be extended to small and middle-scale enterprises which provide tourism products and services.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Rowel Barba said that the agency has laid out plans in cooperation with the DOT to implement the NTDP’s goal of increasing livelihood and employment opportunities for the poor.
Department of Agriculture Assistant (DA) Secretary Leandro Gazmin, meanwhile, highlighted the economic importance of agri-tourism or farm tourism, as well as rural tourism and ecotourism which are also in the NTDP.