Philippine Tourism: Do we succeed from the challenges or still trailing behind?

Rommel Caguiat
Guest Writer

Infront of Dept. of Tourism Office
One of the major contributors to our GDP of the Philippines is Tourism which contributing 5.9% in 2011 and as of August 2013 visitor arrivals from January to July reported an increase of 11.05% which maintained the growth momentum and could hit the expected target of this year.  However in spite of its improvement of the tourism industry here in the Philippines, the country still lags behind its neighboring countries in terms of international arrivals as against Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.

(Photo by Ericka Jumps)
During the 1970’s up to the early 1980’s, Philippine tourism flourished in spite of Marcos Dictatorship and the Martial Law era.  However during the middle of 1980’s saw the decline of Philippine Tourism until 1992 in which showed a record high in number of tourist visits.  However the tourism industry is much slower in the Philippines as compare to other Southeast Asian countries in which most of its neighbors enjoy the fruits and progress of the tourism industry while the Philippines still struggling behind to catch up.  In the beginning of 2000, Philippines tourist arrival totaled to 2.2 million which is a great improvement for the country and has the biggest visitors in 2011 with a record of 3.9 million tourists visiting the country.  With the launching of well publicized tourism in 2012 campaign known “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” in which a record breaking of almost 5 million tourist arrivals in the Philippines and also with the country had the winning entry in the New7Wonders of Nature in which the Puerto Princesa Underground River was provisionally chosen in 2011and Boracay was awarded as the best island in the world from the international travel magazine Travel +Leisure.
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The Philippines have finally arrive in the spotlight of Global Recognition once dubbed as the Sick Man of Asia now the Rising Star of Asia in which positive outlook and good image pave the way for the tourist to finally tour the potentials of our country with a new hope shines to our countryman with the promising of better lives and a new job opportunities due to the tourism boost in the Philippines.

MRT Station Shaw Blvd.
With the increase in influx of tourist in the Philippines, also show increase in challenges of tourism industry, no one expected the increase number of visitors in the Philippines.  Just like the air traffic and the congestions in NAIA I, II and III, due to the facility can only accommodate small number of tourist and we have only one runway for take-off and landing unlike the airports of neighbors like Singapore Changi Airport and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport have two parallel runways and can accommodate 70 million passengers and had Airport Rail Link which is also had good accessibility and transportation.  The Clark International Airport, the former United Stated Air Force Base in the Philippines was a potential of becoming the country’s main gateway however, Clark is much far and the travel time will be approximately two to three hours towards Manila.  Many were proposing a High-Speed Rail Connecting Clark Airport and NAIA and the connecting highway between NLEX and SLEX also viable since NAIA cannot handle increase influx of tourist arrivals.  Another proposal that Sangley Point Naval Base in Cavite, also a former US Naval Base can be used as an International Airport Hub and also International Seaport which is a good location and the government have long plans to establish again reclamation area besides the former American Naval Base therefore I will expect again another demonstration, picketing and rally from the residence of Cavite City.

Transportation in Municipality of San Isidro ,Bohol
When I watched the CNN special coverage about Philippine Tourism last 2012, titled “Eyes of the Philippines,” I was amazed at our country’s possessions like beautiful beaches, great scuba diving, nice hospitality by our fellow Filipinos even here in Metro Manila, we have the best shopping malls and gimmicks everything, however according to the reporter that the Philippines needs to attract more tourists will have to improve its poor infrastructure.  Roads, airports and seaports all over the country were all a decade older and needs a major upgrade.  The culture of Filipino Taxi drivers in spite of some being honest, there were still a few vipers left on the taxi system in the Philippines and took advantage on naรฏve and innocent tourist.  Others like the toilets in the NAIA airport was really gross that someone say that even Jabba the Hut cannot withstand the stench could definitely lightspeed his fat blob out of here.  

Yes the tourists have finally arrived, what about sustainability and improving the growth of tourism?  Does the Philippine Government think of this rather than just promoting and said, “The Philippines is under a new management now.”?

Tansyong Riding "Kalesa" at Luneta Park
We need to invest on good and better infrastructure that could rival or just at par with our neighbors.  Most of the airports and seaports in Southeast Asia have already modernized and upgrade their gateways, in the Philippines I’ am not certain if the government is open for this possibilities, especially now when the Pork Barrel scam was all over the news.  The government should have invested with the infrastructure especially for tourism since they want to add more growth and revenues and attracts more tourists rather than implement more tax like the E-vat.  Well for this administration, President Aquino III, had projects of building and improving international airports in places were tourism flourished.  Like the Caticlan International Airport, the Puerto Princesa International Airport, the Bicol International Airport and so forth.  Not only airports and seaports but also access roads going to the famous Banaue Rice Terraces that most tourist were dying to see but only few have seen the wonder.

In the same page, I watched a documentary regarding the famous rice terraces and there were four teenagers from France wanted to see the famous wonder however due to inaccessibility the four teenagers would have to walk 4 kilometers to the site.  Another challenge is that the Philippines is an archipelagic country compromising of 7,101 islands and if you want to travel to nearby islands like Palawan, Boracay and Bohol, you have to purchase plane tickets and the departure still in Manila, which is more expensive or via Ferry Boat which is very slow and tiresome and speaking of accessibilities through the sea, we use to have fast boats like the Superkat, however it only serves in selected cities especially in Cebu.  Unlike in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam most of their tourist locations were all accessible through roads and rail system and they invest more in their infrastructure.

Indonesia on the other hand is also archipelagic country like ours however when it comes to infrastructure and accessibilities, Indonesia has the advantage over the Philippines and they restore, enrich and empower their tourism by means of dividing cultural and natural tourism.  We all know that the best tourist destination in Indonesia is Bali.  Most of the well-known Class A Hollywood stars comes to Bali every year to spend a well and define relaxation and vacation.  Even the Miss World beauty pageant was held this year 2013 and eventually won by our very own Miss Philippines’ Megan Young.  The most important in Indonesian Tourism is the cultural and historical heritage.  Indonesians have well maintained their cultural heritage by preservation and enriching and promoting Indonesian Culture even their national dishes were also included.  However in the Philippines we do not value our cultural heritage even historical sites like the famous Metropolitan Theater instead of presenting the theater to the tourist it was abandoned and never planned the rehabilitation by the past administration.

 Another potential is the walls inside the Intramuros.  As the only country colonize by Spain in Asia, the Philippines had a rich culture of mixture of Western and Eastern cultures.  As you notice besides the Fort Santiago, Intramuros could be the largest museum in Southeast Asia if they could commission every building as museum instead of government run institution like the Palacio de Gobernador which is now occupied by the Commission on Elections or rebuild the Ayutamyento building which is besides the Manila Cathedral, we could have an authenticated colonial plaza with authenticated colonial calesas as the shuttle for tourist, we could be still be called the Pearl of the Orient Seas, but the government did not mind the restoration and beautification of Manila.  The only advantage we have so far is natural tourism in Palawan, Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, etc...

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Moreover in Mindanao, we do have a lot of potential tourist spots like Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, Gumasa Beach in Sarangani, Samal Island in Davao, Siargao Islands in Surigao and the River Rapids in Cagayan de Oro.  We do have a lot of potentials in Mindanao but the problem for this region still safety and security and Mindanao always placed as travel advisory.

We indeed improve the tourist arrivals here in the Philippines but still we need to improve our Infrastructures, accessibility, safety and security to help our country to be on one of the top tourist destinations in Asia not to be lag behind or still remains in last place again.

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  1. Thank you for sharing such colorful pictures. I liked them all. I also want to go for a holiday with my friends.

    1. You are welcome. James. You must visit the Philippines so you can witness the hidden picturesque scenes if you love colorful panoramic views.

      Thanks anyway for leaving your footprints here


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