DoT needs bigger budget to increase tourist arrivals—JimenezBy By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquire
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Tourism is requesting P2.63-billion budget for 2013—nearly double this year’s allocation—saying it is necessary to jumpstart its ambitious plan to increase foreign tourist arrivals in the country every year until they reach 10 million in 2016, the end of President Aquino’s term.
For 2013, the DoT’s budget would be used for programs and activities intended to promote the country and improve services for the 5.5 million foreign tourists it intends to target that year, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said at the House budget hearing on Thursday.
The country’s tourism program would be marked by a convergence of efforts of the DoT, local governments, and other government agencies to improve products, services and infrastructure, Jimenez said.
This convergence, said Jimenez, shows that tourism is no longer just another activity but something that “will be managed and planned as a national industry.”
Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz noted that the 2013 budget was over 90 percent higher than the DoT’s 2012 budget of P1.38 billion.
“The ambitious target of increasing arrivals by one million will also require an ambitious budget,” Corpuz said.
The 2013 target of 5.5 million is one million higher than the 2012 foreign arrivals of 4.6 million.
Corpuz told lawmakers that as of July, 2.5 million foreign visitors have come to the country. Corpuz said the DoT expects to reach its 4.6 million target for 2012 during the visitor surge in the last quarter of the year. Most of the expected visitors would come from South Korea, he added.
The DoT hopes to increase tourism arrivals yearly, and by 2016 it aims to have 10 million visitors a year.
“So 2013 hopefully will be a banner year for the tourism industry. We hope to achieve what Secretary Jimenez calls sufficient momentum to propel the tourism industry to a target of 10 million by 2016. The target is ambitious but we feel confident,” Corpuz said.
Jimenez said that with convergence, it won’t be only the DoT working on programs and services that are key to improving tourism in the country. Local government units and government agencies would be among those involved in related programs.
For instance, the Department Public Works and Highways has set aside P12 billion for the construction, improvement and rehabilitation of access roads to tourist destinations. The Department of Transportation and Communications would spend P3.29 billion to build and improve airports and navigational facilities, as well as seaports.
Jimenez said the DoT would also continue with its tourism brand campaign, including the continued use of the popular “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan.
It would continue to join travel and tourism fairs, sales missions and road shows, and engage in public relations. The DoT would also put up a central buying media unit so that it could get volume discounts when buying global media exposure.
The DoT would also tap into more foreign markets. One country it is looking at is Russia. Russians are considered “ideal tourists” since they often stay long in a place and spend substantially, according to Jimenez.
He said the department was looking into enticing more visitors from Asean countries to visit the Philippines. The Philippines lags behind its neighbors in terms of Asean arrivals, he noted, and the DoT was determined to get its fair share of visitors.
The DoT would also continue to work on expanding local tourism.
Jimenez said members of Congress could ask local administrators in their areas to give special focus to being a destination for corporate events.
“I can’t overstate in terms of income what we call MICE—meetings, incentive travel, conventions, and exhibition. The income from conventions you attract to your provinces can be very significant,” he said.
He added that corporations should also be encouraged to hold regional and national conventions within the Philippines.
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