The Tourism Department remains focused on achieving its goal of attracting 10 million foreign tourists and 56 million domestic travelers by 2016, despite the various challenges in 2013. The ambitious target is the core of the National Tourism Development Plan 2011-2016.
It said the master plan for tourism development aims to provide a course that minimizes the impact of negative factors, while maximizing the positive factors and generating a sustainable growth curve.
The tourism sector, which currently caters to the needs of around 4 million foreign and 40 million domestic tourists, is concentrated largely in Metro Manila with close to 1 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2012.
The master plan will provide inclusive tourism growth, as it is centered on developing and promoting competitive tourist products and destinations; improving market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure; and enhancing institutional governance and human resources.
The DoT noted that outside Cebu and Boracay, little investments were recorded in other areas in recent years. “The result is that the tourism industry is totally reliant on its natural attractions as the motivation for tourists to visit. But the natural attractions, though unique in many ways, are not sufficiently strong in themselves to attract the numbers required to support a significant tourist sector,” the agency said.
This brought tourism authorities to expand the tourism portfolio from the natural attractions to now include cultural tourism; leisure and entertainment tourism; MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) and events tourism; health, wellness and retirement tourism; cruise and nautical tourism; diving and maritime sport tourism; and education tourism.
At present, the market penetration strategy focuses on aggressive promotions targeted at Japan, South Korea, the United States and China. The DoT recently included Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Canada in the aggressive promotion strategies.
Data from the DoT showed the tourism sector continued to move forward as international visitor arrivals in the first nine months of 2013 reached 3.5 million, up by 11.4 percent from 3.15 million a year ago. This figure represented 63.80 percent of the targeted visitors for 2013.
South Korea remained the biggest market with 908,881 visitors (up 20.7 percent) and retained the largest share of 25.9 percent of international tourist traffic.
South Korea emerged as the first country to contribute more than one million visitors to the Philippines and is expected to surpass its contribution by the end of 2013.
Although posting the least fraction of visitor arrival growth among the top five markets, the United States (up 2.5 percent) still supplied the second largest number of inbound tourists, generating 497,748 travelers, for 14.2- percent share of the over-all inbound traffic.
Meanwhile, Japan (up 5.8 percent) solidified its place as the third biggest source of arrivals with 329,008 visitors, comprising 9.4 percent of the total.
China ranked fourth with 327,054 arrivals constituting 9.3 percent of the inbound visitors with an escalated growth of 66.1 percent This increase was the highest among the top markets in the nine-month period. In September alone, arrivals from China surged 124.25 percent from a year ago.
The fifth biggest visitor volume was provided by Australia (up 12.15 percent) with 148,218 arrivals for a share of 4.2 percent of the total.
“In general, most markets during the period in review posted positive growth rates,” said Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez.
Moreover, other markets generated strong gains: Saudi Arabia (up 34.70 percent) with 30,258 arrivals, Russian Federation (up 29.70 percent) with 23,199 arrivals, Indonesia (up 26.94 percent) with 33,877 arrivals, Thailand (up 18.64 percent) with 35,364 arrivals, France (up 17.77) with 29,263 arrivals and India (up 13.02) with 38,773 arrivals.
Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz said these numbers could be sustained with the tourism plan in place. He said the secondary strategy focused on product development and diversification to increase the average tourist length of stay, thereby encouraging more spending.
“We are able to capture the 5 million tourists [in 2013],” he said.
Besides market and product development, improving market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure are also part of the development plan.
The Tourism Road Infrastructure Program, a joint initiative of the Tourism and the Public Works Departments, endorsed for approval by the Tourism Coordinating Council P12 billion worth of 167 road projects spanning a total of 598 kilometers nationwide.
The DoT is also developing new markets in Europe that is potentially a “vast market” after the European Union lifted the ban on Philippine Airlines in July last year.
The Civil Aeronautics Board has also been aggressive in adopting new air services agreements with other potential tourist markets to help the DoT meet its tourist arrival target by 2016.
The Philippines and France in mid-January agreed to increase flight frequencies between the countries following the recently concluded air services agreement.
“We agreed on seven flights per week between Manila and France,” said CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla.
He said the Philippine Airlines could use a maximum of four flights a week, when it previously operated to Paris until 1998. “Seven is the limit that the French are willing to agree for now, although we were asking for at least 14,” Arcilla said.
Both governments also agreed on third country code sharing specifically for Air France and KLM on the route Paris-Manila via Amsterdam.
This means that Air France can operate from Paris to Manila via Amsterdam using KLM as operating carrier. “It means possible additional flights from Europe that will support travel and tourism. Reciprocally, Philippine carriers can enter into third country code share on the Manila-Paris route, with any Southeast or East Asian airline,” Arcilla said.
PAL president Ramon Ang is also eyeing other destinations in Europe such as Rome, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The flag carrier also seeks approval to fly over Russia to cut travel time to Frankfurt by up to two hours.
PAL is also set to start flights to Haneda twice a day starting March 30, complementing its thrice-a-day service to Narita, thus providing better options and convenience for travelers to and from Japan.
Haneda, also known as Tokyo International Airport, is one of the two premier airports servicing the Greater Tokyo Area. It is considered the world’s most slot-restrictive airport and a prime business hub.
It will become PAL’s fifth gateway to Japan—following Narita, Fukuoka, Osaka and Nagoya—making the flag carrier the biggest Philippine operator to and from Japan with 47 flights a week.
PAL currently operates 21 weekly flights to Narita, five times a week to Fukuoka, seven to Nagoya and seven to Osaka.
Japan provides a significant passenger market to the Philippines being the third biggest source of visitors to the country.
PAL is undergoing a major refleeting program involving 100 aircraft to modernize the fleet, wider regional and international route networks and investments in aviation infrastructure.
The refleeting program will consist of more than 65 A321s and over 20 A330s, which will be delivered over the next three years.