Press Release
February 21, 2010


"Have you ever wondered why, despite our world-class destinations, we still lag behind our Asian neighbors in terms of global marketing which results to relatively low domestic and foreign tourist inflow? That's because our tourism sector, especially the operations segment, still has a long way to go to compete with global players like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia."

Thus noted Vice-Presidential candidate Loren Legarda to media queries on what she believes is the ailing problem of the country's tourism industry and how she will address the challenges of fully maximizing the industry's resources.

"We have one of the world's most beautiful, most blessed landscapes. Where we fall short is how we handle overall management of the sector, and the tough business environment within the [tourism sector] itself," she stressed.

In response, Loren seeks to provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to registered enterprises in the tourism sector to spur investments in the country, generate foreign exchange and employment, and promote tourism industry and generate more revenues for the national economy. In addition, this measure, according to her, will boost the country's image as a destination and veer away from common misconception of ensuing conflicts.

"I really feel it's a timely opportunity for the government to further intervene. There is no doubt the DOT is exhausting all possible means to address this issue. But we may have to do more. I would like to do more for our tourism sector," she said, referring to her proposed Tourism Act (Senate Bill 1381) for approval in Congress.

According to the Senate Economic Planning Office, our tourism industry sustained growth in international arrivals for most of the 1990s at a high of 2.2 million visitors in 1997. The trend was overturned in the subsequent years, with an average contraction of 5.1% from 1998 to 2001. In 2004 international arrivals grew by 20% with nearly 2.3 million arrivals. This slowly continued in subsequent years with 2.6 million arrivals.

But these figures pale in comparison to Malaysia and Thailand; posting tourist arrivals of 15.7 million and 11.7 million, respectively, in 2004. Vietnam's tourist arrivals, which used to lag behind the Philippines', surged ahead in 2000. It maintained its lead with 2.9 million arrivals, and growing annually, since 2004.

"Favorable conditions at destinations are key attractions for tourists. This alone makes a high-value proposition for us as a destination, and becomes a strategic element both for long-term poverty reduction and combating climate change. The government and the private sector must consider these factors in their development strategies. I am calling on the cooperation of business operators of the industry. We will have to work on this together, because we cannot afford to be left behind," Loren concluded.

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