Tourism: A Major Contributor to the Philippines’ Economic Growth
The tourism sector’s upbeat performance since 2004 has inspired the administration into re-thinking a new strategy of attracting tourists and their dollars into our shores. The focus has now been fixed on improving travel into and around the country, through the construction of new airports, the upgrading of existing facilities and the building of roads and bridges for better access and mobility. Increased flight frequencies and air seats directly from source markets and into the main tourism destinations have become the top priority of the administration, as it continues to realize the revenue potentials of this trillion-dollar industry and what could be earned with the proper infrastructure in place.
During the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 24 July 2006, the Government re-defined the country’s economic landscape into five “mega-regions”; while the North Luzon and Mindanao Mega-Regions are envisioned to be the country's agri-business centres in the North and the South, and the Metro Luzon Mega-Region is the emerging commercial center and urban beltway, the Central Philippines Mega-Region will be fully promoted as the country's tourism hub, with the Department of Tourism and Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano as the region’s Development Champion. (The fifth Mega-Region is known as the Cyber Corridor, which will serve as the cyber link between the four regions.)
Tourism is the primary development theme of the Central Philippines Mega-Region, which is composed of all the islands and coastal regions between Luzon and Mindanao. It is in this part of the Philippines where the development and upgrading of airports, seaports, railways and roads will be continuously monitored and coordinated. Efforts are also focused on the development of energy sources and flood control systems. Tourism-related projects are estimated to cost P191.808 billion and envisioned to be fully completed by 2010. Some projects, such as the new international airports in Cabatuan, Iloilo and Silay, Negros Occidental are scheduled for immediate inauguration, while others are being fast-tracked and are to be completed soon. Some of the existing airport terminals to be upgraded to international capability standards are Puerto Princesa (Palawan), Kalibo (Aklan) and Legaspi (Albay), while a totally new international airport terminal is envisioned in the island of Panglao, off the southwest coast of Bohol. (For a more complete listing of tourism and transportation infrastructure projects in the Philippines, please coordinate with the Department of Tourism London Field Office.)
The Department of Tourism reports that the Philippines, “after experiencing high occupancy levels and steadily increasing visitor arrivals for the last several years, has caught the attention of numerous hotel and property developers from all around the globe. DOT estimates that more than US$4 billion will be slated for hotel development” throughout the country in the next few years.
In partnership with Dubai-based Kingdom Hotel Investment, Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) has announced re-development plans consisting of no less than 33 new projects, all of which are designed to establish Makati and other nearby parts into a world-class tourism and business destination. In another development, the Shimao Group of China has also recently announced its decision to invest in the development of high-end hotels and residential properties in Taguig, just south of Makati City.
On the local scene, upscale property developer Megaworld Corporation has likewise formed a P1-billion company to engage in the development of hotels, leisure parks and other tourism-related superstructure projects. The new company, Megaworld Resort Estates Inc., has recently sought registration with Securities and Exchange Commission.
Last but not least, SM Investments Corporation (SMIC) has expressed its desire to become more committed to tourism development as it unveiled plans of its massive tourism projects in the Hamilo Coast off Batangas. Inspired not only by the natural beauty of the islands and the friendliness of its people, but also by the revenue potentials of the industry, SM Chairman Henry Sy Sr. summarizes his thoughts and shares his views – “Promoting Philippine tourism should be every Filipino’s task. It is through tourism that we can compete in the global marketplace.”
Investment approvals for tourism projects in the Philippines have thus increased substantially in the last few years. This indicates a growing confidence in the tourism sector in the country which follows a period of sustained growth in the market and increasing profitability for industry operators. The indications are that this level of investments will continue with several major projects coming on line in the Philippines.
GROWTH IN DOMESTIC TOURISM
Domestic tourism is also on the rise according to reports by GoodNewsPilipinas.com. The number of domestic airline passengers rose more than a fifth in the first quarter of 2007 due to the growing popularity of budget airlines. This is confirmed by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), which said that domestic passengers for the first three months of the year went up by 22.4% to 2.4 million over the same period last year.
The CAB credits the increase in domestic travel to the low fares offered by budget airlines during the summer season and for most of the year. The CAB further stated that the country’s air travel industry is likely to grow 7% this year.
Cebu Pacific Air cornered the most number of passengers with 1.01 million, a 71.6% increase compared to 2006. Air Philippines, controlled by Philippine Airlines (PAL) flew 253,427 passengers, while Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) carried 49,722. Asian Spirit had 111,359 passengers for the period.
TOURISM FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM ON THE RISE
The Philippines is expected to break its own record as it aggressively pushes towards 3 million worldwide visitor arrivals in a single year. Contributing roughly 10% of this total number is Europe, which performs better in terms of the quality of guests rather than the quantity. Europeans are generally longer-staying visitors with a higher average daily expenditure. A majority of Europeans are travelers rather than tourists, spending more time exploring the country and meeting people in the process, learning and appreciating the history and culture of the land, with an eye on minding the environment more intently than most others.
Tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom are up by 9.5% during the first four months of 2007, registering 25,695 British visitors compared to 23,456 over the same period last year. The UK is the largest single market in Europe, and as trends remain positive over the next few months, arrivals by year end are expected to break the 70,000 barrier for the first time since year 2000.
It is important to note that each UK visitor to the Philippines spends an average of US$1,355.00 per trip, and in the year 2006 alone, British tourists pumped approximately US$ 95 million into the Philippine economy, bigger than any other European travel market to the country. It is also noteworthy to say that each tourist arriving in the Philippines is equivalent to one job being created within the service sectors – hotels, resorts, restaurants, department stores, and the like.
DOT LONDON PROJECTS SINCE THE START OF THE YEAR
“We predict a continuing increase in tourist traffic to the Philippines from the United Kingdom as a result of our more forceful and innovative approaches to tourism marketing and promotions”, says Tourism Director Domingo Ramon “Chicoy” Enerio. “The DOT London office is very pleased to have launched two flagship projects since the start of the year, the Travel Philippines Campaign (April) and most recently, the Text WOW Campaign (June). We are also happy to have renewed some of our signature projects like the WOW Philippines London Taxicab Promotion (up to June 2008), the Dive Promotions tie-up with the British Sub-Aqua Club (up to April 2008) and the re-birth of the WOW Philippines – UK website (since January 2007)”
Brief descriptions of the major DOT London projects are enumerated as follows:
Travel Philippines – encourages UK residents of Filipino background to register and become active marketers of Philippine tourism. Successful marketers are enticed with the chance to win free tickets to the country, courtesy of select travel partners like Audley Travel, Crystal Travel, Dive Worldwide and Gifto Travel. DOT London is actively seeking the participation of the Filipino communities in this program, realizing that greater success can be achieved with their active support and cooperation. For more information, visit the website at www.wowphilippines.co.uk/travel .
Text WOW Campaign – DOT London has embarked on a new promotional program which provides free information on special travel offers provided by participating travel agencies. Consumers are encouraged to text the word “WOW” to 81404 to instantly receive special Philippine travel offers through their mobile phone. Travel agencies presently involved in this program are Celestial Travel, Gifto Travel, Optima Travel, Emerald Global, Philippine Islands Connection-UK, Pinoy Travel and Charrie Travel and Tours.
WOWPhilippines London Taxicab Promotions – Owing to the outstanding success of this program, which has been launched since September 2005, DOT London has once again renewed its contract for 50 London taxicabs to carry the WOW Philippines advert up to June 2008. DOT London envisions that this campaign can also be launched in other UK cities, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Bradford/Leeds.
Dive Promotional Tie-up with the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) – The Philippines’ partnership with BSAC, the biggest dive club in the world, has been renewed for a second straight year, to firmly establish the country as a premiere worldwide diving destination. This promotional tie-up has already generated publicity for Philippine diving in the UK in excess of GBP1.5 million since 2006.
WOW Philippines Website – DOT London has invested time and resources to develop a new multi-function, inter-active website that is fast becoming popular with travel partners and consumers alike. The site can now provide opportunities for travel partners to showcase their various packages, and create links direct to their respective inquiry/booking sites. For consumers, there is a wide array of services to choose from, such as requesting for brochures (or downloading them outright), subscribing to the monthly e-newsletters, searching and comparing flights, or simply securing information on hotels, resorts or tour packages. For a better appreciation of the new DOT London website, please visit www.wowphilippines.co.uk .
Production of Ten (10) new Destination Information Brochures – DOT has already completed four (4) brochures on Boracay, Palawan, Puerto Galera and Bohol. Three (Manila, Cebu and the Calabarzon region) are currently on the pipeline, and another three (Banaue/Baguio, Davao and Central Luzon are also being planned. All flyers are to be produced in time for the World Travel Market in London in November 2007.
________________________________________________________________________ For more information on the Philippines and other activities and projects of the Philippine Department of Tourism in London, please visit our website: www.wowphilippines.co.uk or contact the Embassy of the Philippines, Department of Tourism 146 Cromwell Road, London SW7 4EF T: 020 7835 1100; F: 020 7835 1926 E: firstname.lastname@example.org