(Yearender) Tourism in 2015: A year of big events, big gains

December 27, 2015 10:15 am 

By Azer N. Parrocha

MANILA, Dec. 23 (PNA) — It has been an important year for the Philippines' tourism sector after having been proclaimed as 'Visit the Philippines Year' (VPY) with its ‘buena mano’ being the State and Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis from January 15-19.

VPY 2015 is the event-centric campaign of the Department of Tourism (DOT) which is meant to help the country meet its tourism goals in terms of arrivals, receipts and employment, and its contribution to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Later this year, DOT announced a tweak in the 2015 campaign to beckon tourists to return to the country in 2016. The campaign for next year is called Visit the Philippines Again 2016 (VPA 2016).

“The VPY 2015 campaign, to sum it up, has been very effective in terms of creating a higher level of awareness of the Philippines as a competitive destination,” DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. told reporters in an interview.

He said that this year focused on specific destinations that will experience “more rapid growth, higher share of visitor traffic and more importantly destinations that will be able to position themselves very strongly in the region.”

“All the efforts we have exerted for VPY 2015 is all directed at providing livelihood for our people. To quote Secretary (Ramon Jimenez Jr.), more than the count, it’s really about economic benefits,” he added.

Big events

Among the biggest events held under VPY 2015 were Madrid Fusion Manila (MFM), the Dive Resort Travel (DRT) Show and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit among others.

Madrid Fusion Manila, held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay from April 24 to 26, is the biggest culinary event in the Philippines and Southeast Asia which brought together the best local and international chefs to discuss and learn more about food and cooking.

DOT said more than 1,000 delegates from 15 countries were present during the Gastronomy Congress, which was one of Madrid Fusion’s components aside from the Trade Exhibition, and the Flavors of the Philippines Festival.

Also held was the Dive Resort Travel (DRT) Philippines Show held from Sept. 11-13 at SM Megamall Megatrade Hall in Mandaluyong City. It is a three-day travel fair that gathered dive industry stakeholders in one venue.

Around 2,000 international dive exhibitors, dive enthusiasts, and marine conversationalists attended the event which featured a travel exchange, seminars/workshops, a photo gallery and familiarization tours.

The biggest international held in the Philippines was this year's APEC Summit which brought in economic leaders of the 21 member states. It also became an opportunity for around 10,000 delegates to visit tourist destinations in the country.

The department said that the summit further strengthened the country’s image as an ideal meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions/events (MICE) destination.

Madrid Fusion, DRT and APEC 2015 among other events as well as tourists’ heighted interest to visit the country for travel resulted in visitor arrivals inching closer towards its targets.

Big projects, programs

This year was also a year of major tourism infrastructure projects under the Aquino administration through the DOT’s converge program with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The budget for tourism infrastructure totaled to around PHP54 billion which was used for the creation of roads, bridges, access facilities, among other tourism infrastructure.

DOT and DPWH on Nov. 5 turned over the 4.6-kilometer Taal Lake Circumferential Road-Agoncillo section to the municipality of Agoncillo which currently connect the Talisay, Laurel and Agoncillo municipalities.

With the completion of the Agoncillo Section, passengers are provided with a fast and accessible route to local tourist hot spots. It also cuts travel time of agriculture and maritime product deliveries into half.

This is the first official turn-over under the convergence program in the region. The completed road covers part of the whole Taal Volcano Protected Landscape Circumferential Road which is a major attraction in the region.

Another major program in the DOT this year was the expected release of its hotel and resort grading category, the Star Rating system. However, the release of its results was later marred by controversy as it was described by a group as “unnecessary.”

DOT was supposed to release the results late November but it was pushed back to December after the House of Representatives Committee on Tourism early this month stopped the agency from implementing the project pending its submission of a revised set of standards.

However, the department remained hopeful that there will be an announcement of Star Rating system results by yearend as it part of its mandate to improve global competitiveness in the tourism industry.

Big gains

For the first ten months of the year, foreign tourist arrivals reached 4.39-million visitors. However, the country welcomed its five-million visitor last Dec. 21. The target by yearend is 5.2-5.3 million visitors.

DOT said that this figure is 11.13 percent higher than the 3.95-million visitors recorded in the same period in 2014 with top markets including South Korea, USA, Japan, China, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, UK and Canada.

Foreign tourist receipts from January to October generated PHP186.89 billion. This is 8.24 percent higher than the PHP172.66-billion acquired in the same period last year. The target by yearend is approximately PHP270-280 billion.

Tourism also significantly contributed to employment generation. In 2014, there were 4.8-million directly-employed to tourism. DOT expects to hit five to six-million by yearend.

It is also currently the third largest dollar-earning industry of the Philippines after semi-conductors and the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry and has contributed a 7.8 percent share to the Philippine economy in 2014. (PNA)

LGI/BNB/ANP

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