Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kopi Talk Tourism laggard

That was good timing for the Philippines, to festoon buses in London with the “more fun in the Philippines” tourism ads as Britain celebrated the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The “more fun” tourism campaign has been featured on CNN and will soon be on National Geographic, according to tourism officials.

Visitor arrivals in the Philippines went up last year to 3.917 million from the 3.52 million in 2010, according to the Department of Tourism. From January to April this year, 1.497 million foreign tourists visited the country – an increase of 14.61 percent over the 1.3 million during the same period last year, according to DOT figures.

The government, however, will still have to do more if the country is to catch up with its neighbors in tourism. A report released recently by the World Economic Forum showed that the Philippines ranked a dismal seventh out of eight Southeast Asian countries in terms of competitiveness as a tourist destination.

The WEF based its ranking on three sub-indices: travel and tourism regulatory framework, business environment and infrastructure, and human and natural resources. The Philippines ranked lowest in the second sub-index. Categories under the three sub-indices include environmental sustainability, safety and security, health and hygiene, price competitiveness, air and ground transport infrastructure, and information and communication technology infrastructure.

The WEF ranked the Philippines ahead only of Cambodia and behind Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam. In terms of foreign tourist arrivals, even Cambodia may soon overtake the Philippines.

The Philippines’ ranking is unfortunate because the country has so much to offer to tourists. The archipelago is blessed with world-class beaches and diving sites and many other natural attractions. The people are among the nation’s biggest assets. But the country keeps getting bad reviews because of inadequate tourism infrastructure and safety issues. The DOT is now focused on raising the nation’s profile as a tourist destination around the world. The tourism marketing drive should be complemented by intensified efforts to address the deficiencies in other areas.