May 12, 2012

DOT launches national tourism blueprint

THE Aquino administration is planning to spend some P74 billion beginning this year in an effort to reach its targeted arrivals of some 10 million international, and 35.5 million domestic travelers by 2016.

The amount will be poured into infrastructure, improvement of tourist sites and marketing support, over a four-year period until 2016, according to the recently unveiled National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP).

As this developed, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said initial promotion efforts of his agency have already started bearing fruit. In the first quarter of 2012, inbound tourism jumped by 16 percent to 1.15 million. This, he told a gathering of industry stakeholders on Thursday, brings the agency closer to its 4.6 million arrivals target for the year.

The increase is the market’s “quick response to promotion initiatives,” he said: arrivals from China grew by 77 percent, Korea 16 percent, Taiwan 37 percent, Australia 18 percent, the United Kingdom 21 percent and Germany 18 percent.

Under the NTDP, about P50 billion will be spent by the government to build roads and bridges, according to Rolando Canizal, director for the Office of Tourism Planning, Research and Information Management of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

For this year, P3 billion has been allotted to construct roads and airports, and P17 billion in 2013, he told the BusinessMirror.

The NTDP was presented by the DOT on Thursday (May 3) at an agency-hosted parallel forum during the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank.

The government investment under the NTDP, however, is only 29 percent of the P266-billion total investments needed by the tourism sector to reach its goal of increased visitor arrivals, and boost its contribution to the country’s total economic output.

Canizal explained that most of the investments, or P191 billion, under the master plan, would still have to be coughed up by the private sector.

“The balance comprises private-sector investment in hotels, resorts, leisure-entertainment-shopping, health and wellness, convention, event/exhibition, cruise and transportation facilities,” according to the NTDP.

An additional 50,867 hotel and resort units are being eyed for construction from 2012 to 2016.

During his welcome remarks at the forum, Jimenez said the plan lays out the strategies to be undertaken by the government to reach its tourist-arrivals targets.

Industry stakeholders, including representatives from the accommodations, transport, and conventions sectors, as well as travel agencies, attended the forum.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. unveils the National Tourism Development Plan, a P266-billion strategy aimed at increasing international tourist arrivals to 10 million, and domestic travelers to 35.5 million by 2016, at an agency-hosted forum on May 3, 2012. (DOT Photo)

The plan “cuts up” the country into 20 clusters, nine of which have been identified as priority clusters for investment and development, based on the “identification of secondary gateways as premier entry points” to these areas, explained Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz, for Tourism Planning and Promotions, during his presentation.

The nine priority clusters include Central Visayas, Metro Manila and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Central Luzon, Palawan, Western Visayas, Davao Gulf and Coast, Northern Mindanao, Bicol and Laoag-Vigan.

Corpuz noted that prior to the NTDP’s implementation, the goals of the tourism sector were hampered by “uncompetitive tourist destinations and products; limited flights and seat capacities, including the poor quality and limited capacity of international and domestic transportation and infrastructure destination, as well as other restrictions that have limited market access; and weak public-sector tourism governance and human-resources development policies and practices.”

To overcome these challenges, he said, the DOT will undertake strategic directions and programs—such as the development and marketing of competitive tourist products and destinations; improvement of market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure; and improvement of tourism institutional, governance and industry manpower capabilities.

The DOT said the implementation of the NTDP would raise the contribution of the tourism sector to 8.1 percent of the gross domestic product from the current 5 percent; and “directly employ 6.8 million that will account for 17 percent of total employment.”

Most of these tourism workers will come from the poor sector, based on the cluster destination framework of the master plan.

In addition, according to the NTDP, the planned investments versus the projected increase in tourist expenditures will result in an economic internal rate of return of 21.05 percent, and a net present value of P24.1 billion.

The NTDP cluster development plans will be undertaken in close coordination with relevant government agencies like the departments of Public Works and Highways, and of Transportation and Communications, as well as local government units.

Meanwhile, Jimenez defended the agency’s slogan—“It’s more fun in the Philippines”—against critics who said that the problems of the sector couldn’t be solved with just a tagline.

“Those who say that have limited knowledge of the persuasive power of words, of communications,” he said.

In his speech, he said the slogan “makes a compelling argument for choosing the Philippines as one of the world’s top tourist destinations. It is rooted in our competitive advantage, a ‘deliverable,’ where Filipinos put genuine value in being able to participate to make their guests feel at home.”

It is second nature to Filipinos, he said, “to be hospitable and seize every opportunity to make guests’ every visit to his home successful.”

The slogan has “energized” the system and “contains one thing that works so well in an open competition…it is the truth. It is about Filipinos and their infectious love of things the world tends to forget‚family, friends and communion with God and Nature,” he said.

The Aquino administration has just undertaken a P63-million advertising campaign over CNN. The DOT, and the departments of Budget and Management, Finance and Trade and Industry, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will shoulder the funding for the campaign. (See DOT starts intl tourism ad campaign on CNN.)

The DOT said the 30-second spots on CNN cost about P19,000 each. The rollouts of the ads was timed for the ADB meet and CNN’s special Eye on the Philippines programming. It will run in key international markets until August.

The 30-second ad, inspired by the memes generated by the slogan, is aided by music from Boney M’s “Gotta Go Home,” whose rights were secured by the DOT for worldwide use.

The agency also clarified in a press statement that of the Black Eyed Peas was not involved in the ad soundtrack.

“However, [he] is a very strong supporter of Philippine tourism as he reaches out to Filipino-Americans with various projects,” it added.

With close to 4 million tourist arrivals in 2011, the country still ranks way behind its neighbors—Malaysia (25 million), Thailand (19 million), Singapore (13.2 million), Indonesia (7.6 million) and Vietnam (6 million).

(Originally published in the BusinessMirror, May 6, 2012.)

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