Friday, January 30, 2009

One of RP’s brightest options to speed up economic development

1/30/09 - Tourism, now one of Southeast Asia’s major dollar earners, is among the Philippines’ brightest options to speed up its economic development and hasten the attainment of the goal to become a First World country in the next two decades.

There are a lot of things positively going for Philippine tourism. For one, Filipinos are natural tourism assets themselves — warm and hospitable and are largely at home with English, the world’s language of business.

Their being largely Christians also gives them instant affinity with Christians from the United States and several European nations, the country’s traditional markets.

The Philippines is never short of natural attractions, which are among the best in the world. Centuries of foreign rule has enriched its history and culture, which are now reflected in a wealth of historical sites and cultural festivals.

Some of the country’s major tourism destinations which annually receive more foreign visitors as well as those that show great potentials have been designated as priority areas by the national government and programmed for more intensive promotion and infrastructure development.

The tourism destinations are mostly found in Clark-Subic areas, Metro Manila-Tagaytay, the Cordilleras, Ilocos region, Cebu-Bohol-Siargao, Northern Palawan, Boracay and Davao.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said the plan to fast-track the promotion and development of these different areas had earlier been identified and included in President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 10-point “legacy agenda.”

The country’s identified target tourist markets are South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore for the short haul, and North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and France for the long haul.

This year, DOT has targeted three million tourist arrivals. This figure is projected to increase to five million by 2010. The five million tourist arrivals will translate into more revenues for the country.

”Assuming each visitor spends at least US$ 1,000 here, then that’s as much as the $ 6 billion to $ 8 billion in overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remittances that have been propping up the economy for years,” Durano said.

Tourist arrivals rose by 3.98 percent to 2,607,118 in the 10-month period from January to October this year, from 2,507,738 in the same period last year. North America (comprising of Canada, Mexico and the USA) remain the top sources of visitors to the country, with 559,484 arriving for the first 10 months, followed by Korea (515,394), Japan (305,543), China (140,685) and Taiwan (103,134).

Figures from the United Nations World Trade Organization (UNWTO) indicate that in 2020, tourist arrivals is forecast to rise to 1.6 billion from 843 million in 2006. In the Asia-Pacific region, tourism is forecast to rise to 397 million in 2020 from 167 in 2006. A 7.3 percent annual growth rate in intra-regional traffic is projected by the year 2020.

The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region has also strong growth prospects. Arrivals in the region is forecast to increase to 136 million by 2020, while the growth in intra-regional traffic will rise to about 7.7 percent by the year 2020.

The beaches and the dive sites of Cebu, Bohol, Siargao, Palawan and Boracay are frequented by Koreans and Japanese. Laoag and Vigan are favorite destinations of the Taiwanese because of its proximity to Taipei and the availability of direct flights between Kaoshiung and Taipei and Laoag International Airport, aside from the various natural, cultural and historical attractions.

Mainland Chinese, on the other hand, prefer entertainment centers like casinos and world-class business and investment facilities and opportunities being offered by Manila, Tagaytay, Clark and Subic.

Cebu City, known as the “Queen City of the South” and center of business and trade in Central Philippines, is also the springboard of tourism in the Visayas. One of Cebu’s major attractions is the cross planted by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on April 14, 1521.

The 1,268 haystack mounds popularly known as the Chocolate Hills are the main attractions of Bohol. Also of special interest is the Tarsier, the smallest primate found only in the province.

Siargao, situated in northeastern Mindanao, is Asia’s “surfers’ paradise.” Located there is the so-called “Cloud Nine” which is the best known surfing break. Siargao enjoys the world reputation of being on the “Top Surfing Waves.”

Metro Manila is the gateway to the “magical islands” of the Philippines. It combines the rhythmic cadence of the horse-drawn calesas with the pulsating beat of dazzling nightlife, high-tension discos, bards, restaurants and 24-hour diners.

Palawan is known as the Philippines’ last frontier. It has perfect spots for swimming, scuba diving and other water sports. El Nido beach is still the loveliest place where to commune with unspoiled nature’s beauty.

Boracay remains the favorite and number one tourist destination in the country. Its seemingly endless stretch of fine white sand beaches, clear blue waters and serenity are alluring characteristics of the island that attract many visitors from all over the world.

When in Laoag, don’t forget to visit the old churches and the preserved heritage houses in the Ilocos and relive the ambiance of the 18th century. While in Ilocos, visitors may also feel the heat of the sand dunes of Calayab, the “Sahara Desert of the North” and marvel over the beauty of Lake Paoay, visit and see the torture chambers in Sarrat and Bacarra as well as the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Pagudpud.

Davao is the biggest city in the world in terms of size. Its beauty and wealth is partly vested in its vast greenery and mountain ranges and virgin forests, fertile valleys and coastal planes.

While the DOT will spearhead the task of promoting these destinations, other national government departments will complement the effort by providing necessary infrastructures to make the tourist sites more accessible and pleasantly convenient. (PNA)

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