Gov't should focus on increasing tourism revenues, not arrivals – expert
MANILA, Philippines – The government should focus on increasing revenues earned from tourists, instead of counting foreign visitor arrivals, according to an expert on sustainable tourism.
In a media briefing on Tuesday, July 10, Fernando Martin Roxas also said tourism "can be pro-poor," meaning it would help create local jobs and empower businesses.
"From a business standpoint, it should be revenue. It doesn't matter how many people come, [but] what's important is that you get the target revenue," said Roxas, executive director of the Asian Institute of Management's Dr Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism.
The government, added Roxas, should ramp up efforts to develop local enterprises, which would boost revenue and job creation.
According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), the breakdown of total tourist expenditures in 2014 is as follows: accommodations at 32%, shopping for local goods at 15%, and transportation at 13%. Only 5% of the total expenses accounted for food.
Globally, one-third of travel expenditures goes to shopping, based on a 2015 study by Millward Brown.
"Shopping is only 15% of the total tourist expenditure. We don't sell enough to the tourists and a lot more can be done," Roxas said, citing tourism data from 2014.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said in June that tourism industries contributed P1.929 trillion to the economy in 2017, higher than the 1.553 trillion in 2016.
Some 5.27 million Filipinos were employed in these industries in 2017, according to the PSA – with almost two million in passenger transport and 1.7 million in the accommodations and food industries.
Roxas said the Philippine government should also be "strategic" in developing tourism destinations.
He noted that ecotourism is a "growing sector," as more and more people are becoming aware of environmental concerns nowadays.
"Ecotourism is the fastest growing sector worldwide. I think the Philippines is strategically positioned to capture that market, if we play the cards right," he said.
Focusing on ecotourism is also the most viable option, according to Roxas, as the Philippines still lacks infrastructure.
"We don't have the big airports. We don't have the well-built travel routes between islands. So what ecotourism does is you don't cater to the mass, you cater [to] the few," he said.
"It's not just the question of number. [It's] what they're willing to pay for and the value they put. We have to be strategic in thinking [about] what can we offer that they value," he added.
Preventing another Boracay
Developing tourist destinations also comes with environmental responsibilities, to ensure sustainability.
"The logic is, you [identify] what [the problem] is and before you hit the limit, you already have the system in place," Roxas said.
He added that managing the capacity of a destination and empowering local communities help in preserving tourist spots. (READ: Which tourist spots will be rehabilitated after Boracay?)
Close coordination is needed among the local government, the community, and businesses, Roxas said, so the Philippines would not have to deal with another Boracay.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the 6-month closure of Boracay due to its environmental problems, starting April 26.
Despite Boracay's shutdown, the latest data showed that tourist arrivals in the Philippines continue to climb. (READ: IN NUMBERS: Foreign visitors up by 10% despite Boracay closure)
In 2017, more than 6.5 million foreigners visited the country, surpassing the target of 6 million. This year, the government is eyeing 7.5 million foreign visitors. – Rappler.com