Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco affirmed the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) commitment to take an active role in realizing the socioeconomic policies, strategies, and programs enclosed in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 of the Marcos administration.
“While the tourism industry is just coming out of the pandemic that ravaged through all of the sectors of this vibrant industry that contributes a lot to our economy, the gargantuan challenges are somehow made more manageable by the fact that our President, President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., has clearly identified tourism to be a priority under his administration,” Frasco said in a news release on Tuesday, lauding the President’s signing of the executive order on the adoption of the plan.
“The past few months, he’s made great efforts and waves as well, to convey an openness to the global community in terms of receiving investments and tourists. And this has put the Philippines in a very good position as far as the efforts towards recovery,” she added.
To recall, Marcos had approved important proposals aimed at spurring tourism activities and increasing travel convenience in the country, among which is the promotion of Holiday Economics, which moved holidays that fall on a weekend to the nearest weekday to boost tourism spending; relaxation of entry protocols and travel restrictions to and within the country to encourage more tourists to visit and for the country to be at par with its ASEAN neighbors; voluntary wearing of face masks in indoor and outdoor settings, except in specific settings; and the replacement of the One Health Pass with a more convenient E-travel platform.
Marcos earlier also approved the value-added tax refund program for foreign tourists starting 2024, and the extension of the e-visa for Chinese and Indian nationals, two of the country’s important source markets in terms of visitor arrivals pre-pandemic.
Frasco served as one of the panelists during the first-ever Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 Forum: From Plan to Action, alongside Public Works and Highways Secretary Manuel M. Bonoan, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John E. Uy, Energy Secretary Raphael Perpetuo M. Lotilla, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president George Barcelon, and Private Sector Advisory Council chairperson Henry R. Aguda.
During the plenary session on economic transformation, Frasco noted the DOT’s steadfast efforts in improving enabling mechanisms for tourism development in the Philippines, outside of its “traditional mandate” to promote tourist destinations.
Digitalization in tourism
She said through the partnership with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the DOT endeavors to improve connectivity in at least 94 key tourist destinations in the Philippines, and develop a Tourist Lifecycle App that would “provide tourists connectivity in each and every single aspect of their journey, from booking airline, to the hotel, transport services, as well as all other related services.”
In terms of the tourism industry’s contribution to the promotion of human and social development, Frasco also bared the DOT’s initiatives that are anchored on harnessing the strength of the Filipino brand of hospitality and the DOT’s goal of training 100,000 Filipino tourism workers across the country in the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence.
“The idea also being that harnessing upon the strength of the Filipino people in terms of hospitality that the Philippines would become the Center for Hospitality Excellence in Asia and the world. We recognize the necessity of human capital development and the necessity of providing social protections upon our tourism workers,” she explained.
Whole-of-government, whole-of-nation approach
Frasco said to equalize tourism promotions across the country, the DOT offices in the country’s 16 regions would pursue close coordination with local government units (LGUs), particularly on the aspect of identifying the sectors needing the most assistance in terms of tourism development.
Also in close cooperation with LGUs, the DOT seeks to introduce a Tourist Assistance Call Center and a Tourist Concierge to ensure a positive experience for tourists throughout their stay, as well as strengthen the safety and security of tourists through an upcoming tripartite agreement with the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), recognizing peace and security as a bedrock to success.
She also shared on the DOT’s ongoing conduct of due diligence in tourist destinations to pinpoint areas needing assistance in increasing the accessibility of emergency services and improvement in health facilities.
Expressing her optimism in the DOT’s attainment of its programs and plans for the industry, Frasco echoed the President’s call for strengthened cooperation between local and national government and boosting the partnership between government and private sector.
“We have a lot of programs and plans in place for the year to come. And we are hopeful that with the partnership of our international partners, in person of the diplomatic community, as well as our private sector, and most especially our local government units, we would be able to give the Philippines a fighting chance at not only reclaiming its position pre-pandemic but more importantly, into transforming the Philippines into a tourism powerhouse in Asia,” she said.
The Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 serves as the national government’s “overall guide in development planning for six years. It reflects the government’s socioeconomic policies, strategies, and programs in support of and consistent with the socioeconomic agenda of the President and is geared towards the attainment of development goals and objectives in the long-term development plan.”
Organized by the National Economic Development Authority, the forum held at the Philippine International Convention Center is the first of the stakeholder discussions and roadshows on the implementation of the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028. (PNA)