Contact Us
Century International Hotels



Tourism gets boost from tsunami, but not much
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: By Karl Wilson
Date: 2005-01-28
With its 7,000-plus islands, golf courses, white sandy beaches, diving, surfing and friendly people, the Philippines should be reaping a whirlwind of tourist dollars following the tsunami which devastated resorts in and around the Indian Ocean last month.

Despite its attractions, however, the best this western Pacific archipelago can hope for this year is a modest increase in tourism numbers, industry officials say.

They list the lack of infrastructure, suitable accommodation and direct flights from Europe, inadequate airport facilities, and terrorism fears among the key issues that need to be addressed if tourism is going to be taken seriously in the Philippines.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano expects this year will see a 16 percent increase in tourism numbers to 2.66 million, surpassing last year’s record arrivals of 2.23 million.

But these are still relatively small when compared to Hong Kong which saw more than 20 million tourists last year, tiny Macau with more than 16 million, Thailand’s 13 million and Indonesia with more than five million.

Even Vietnam has overtaken the Philippines with nearly three million tourists last year.

Since the Dec. 26 disaster some 16 foreign tour groups have been diverted to the Philippines, according to Leo Picaso, president of the Philippine Tour Operators Association.

‘’We have seen a significant increase in inquiries but unfortunately the Philippines does not have the facilities to handle a massive influx of tourists,’’ he said.

‘’The renewed interest, however, will give us an opportunity to try and promote other destinations apart from Boracay, Cebu and Palawan,’’ three islands famous for their beach resorts.

‘’But there are limitations as to how many tourists we can comfortably take. When you venture away from the popular resort spots you are looking at basic facilities which are not suitable to many foreign tourists.’’

A World Tourism Organization report in 2003 said: ‘’The Philippines is yet to fulfill its considerable potential and establish itself as a premier tourist destination in Asia.’’

‘’It has fallen behind many of its neighbors who have achieved substantial rates of tourism growth and development even in the most trying of circumstances.’’

Picaso said tourism has the potential of being one of the country’s key economic drivers but the lack of infrastructure and security still impede the industry’s development.

An official with the Philippine Tourism Authority, who asked not to be named, said that tourism only contributes two to three percent to the economy while the eight million Filipinos working overseas contribute 10 percent.

‘’That should tell you something about how mixed up our priorities are in this country,’’ he remarked.

The official said tourism had enormous potential in the Philippines but the country’s promotional campaigns lacked ‘’the staying power of our regional neighbors.’’

"We simply cannot compete with the packages being offered in other parts of the region.’’

Alfonso Teotico, vice-president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association, said progress would take time.

‘’We are working on it but it will take time and a lot of government willpower to sustain the marketing campaign needed to convince tourists, especially those in Europe, that we too have what our neighbors have and more.’’

‘’Despite the tsunami disaster I doubt we will see any significant increase in our tourist numbers this year,’’ he said.

Many foreigners still see the Philippines as too dangerous to visit, he complained. ‘’Foreign government travel warning don’t help our case either.’’

Earlier this month the US State Department released an information sheet warning Americans that threats of terrorism remain high in the Philippines. (AFP)


Indonesia Thailand USA Europe Canada Hong Kong Philippines