Travel firms call for reforms
The Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) has urged the government to implement reforms to boost the local tourism industry and achieve the target of 10 million tourist arrivals by 2016.
In a recent briefing, PTAA president Aileen C. Clemente says the group was collaborating closely with various government agencies in pushing for the rationalization of the airline tax regime, easing of visa requirements and improvement of infrastructure and connectivity.
Clemente is optimistic that the government will soon remove the common carriers tax.
“(When that happens,) it becomes healthier or more competitive for an international carrier to fly here,” she says.
Under the current tax structure, international carriers have to pay the common carriers tax, which represents 3 percent of gross receipts, and the gross Philippine billings (GPB) tax, which is equivalent to 2.5 percent of GPB, or an aggregate taxation on gross revenue of 5.5 percent.
Clemente also stresses the need for government to relax visa requirements to make it easier for tourists to enter the country. Safeguards should just be put in place to weed out unwanted tourists.
In terms of connectivity and infrastructure, Clemente says the industry is looking for measures or programs that will ease the travel of tourists from the time they enter the country until they reach their final destinations.
Clemente says areas such as Bohol, Puerto Princesa, Davao, Legazpi, Marinduque and Cagayan Valley are enjoying high growth rates precisely because it is not too difficult to get there.
“Those with airport gateways show fast growth simply because the infrastructure is there,” she says, adding that the top destinations in the country—Cebu, Boracay and Palawan—all have extensive travel infrastructure in place.
Likewise critical to increasing tourist arrivals to 10 million by 2016 is improving “air access,” says Tourism Assistant Secretary Bong Bengzon.
This year, 4.2 million tourists are expected to come, mostly from the traditional source markets of the United States, Japan and Korea.
“What will drive the numbers would be first, improvement of air access into the Philippines. The connection from foreign markets to the Philippines is limited by air (travel) so it’s very important for us to start talking to the airlines to increase the number of flights and increase the capacities,” Bengzon explains.
The tourism official also cites the need for better “connectivity” and improved infrastructure that will allow tourists to get to and from their destinations easily.
Clemente says that the administration is already on the right track with the passage of executive orders that support the open skies policy.
“These more than anything are signals that the Philippines is open for business. The connectivity directly to specific destinations by charter was a big boost-Korea and China charters to Boracay, Puerto Princesa are the new additions,” she says, “Also, the interest in the Philippines is growing and it is through the effort of various tourism offices, private sector and local government units.”
She adds that 2012 is shaping up to be a good year for the tourism sector.
“I believe that the National Tourism Development Plan (the roadmap for Philippine Tourism) is a key. It is a short-medium term plan that identifies what needs to be in place for a sustainable growth for tourism up to 2016,” she says.
As for the new campaign “It’s More Fun,” Clemente says it will only be a success if integrated with the rest of the plans of the DOT under the NTDP.
“Having said that, we are in full support of the efforts that is being undertaken by the DOT in regards to this slogan. And this will be highlighted during the PTAA Travel Tour Expo,” she says.
The Travel Tour Expo is the flagship exhibition of PTAA, the national association of travel agencies, and this year’s edition is scheduled for Feb. 17-19 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.
Clemente is optimistic that 80,000 visitors will visit the exhibition and avail themselves of the discounts on travel packages, considering that Filipinos are traveling more than ever.
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