I found this article intriguing as it starts with how the President directed the Tourism secretary on how he should measure his performance: the number of jobs generated. If only every other government department had a similar measure of success there would be different view of the kind of economic success the country is enjoying. Equally interesting too is the result of a 40% increase in tourists coming to the country despite the limitations to our infrastructure to serve their needs adequately.
From BusinessWorld Philippines
September 30, 2014
Making tourism growth inclusive
THE guideline from the President is clear, as he keeps reminding Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon Jimenez, “Remember Mon, it is not about counting the number of Koreans coming out of the planes, it is about how many jobs we generate.”
Today, there are 4.7 million tourists directly employed by the tourism industry. Gross value added from the tourism industry in the Philippines is about 6% of GDP. Per the World Tourism Organization (WTO), international tourism grows at an average of 4-5% annually.
In the year 2010, there were 3.5 million international tourism arrivals into the Philippines. In 2013, this went up to 4.8 million, a growth of almost 40% in three years. This means, despite our infrastructure limitations, we are growing this industry faster than it is growing in the world.
Total Philippine revenues from tourism today amounts to $4.3 billion. Total direct employment from tourism is 4.7 million, or about one job generated per foreign tourist. The interesting thing, actually staggering, is that domestic tourism represents 70-80% of the local market for the tourism industry. Secretary Jimenez says in 2010, there were 22 million domestic tourists. By 2013, this had gone up to 44 million. This is expected to grow to at least 50 million by 2016.
The surge in domestic travel has been brought about, he says, by the new optimism in the country, the aggressiveness of the budget airlines (notably Cebu Pacific, says Island Souvenir’s Jay Aldeguer, despite its service quality shortcomings), and the rising propensity of the middle class to travel outside of their homes, to other towns and provinces. It is easy to conclude that the clogging of airports, seaports and roads are largely caused by the unprecedented increase (100% growth) in domestic travelers in the past three years. We just need to catch up.
There are three metrics for tracking success in tourism, says Secretary Jimenez:
• Inclusiveness (jobs and income generation for the poorer people and their communities): Tourism is generating employment where none existed before: in underground rivers, mountaintops, isolated caves, coves and islands. There are now butanding (whale shark) guides in Donsol, Sorsogon, an erstwhile sixth-class municipality that has been reclassified into first class because of the economic bonanza from butanding tourism. Around Mactan and neighboring islands, island-hopping in pumpboats has increased, and created new jobs for pumpboat operators and passenger aides.
One of the main complaints of travelers is our scarce and poorly maintained toilets. The DOT is testing a mini-PPP (public-private partnership) project near Kalibo, Aklan, jump-off point for Boracay. The DOT built a modern toilet, and awarded it to the poor family of Aling Gloria to maintain. They were given a little seed money, orientation and training, and allowed to charge P10 per user of the toilet.
Today, Aling Gloria’s family has an award for outstanding tourism services, and they have expanded to offering showers, also at P10 per user. The enterprise has pushed her family above the poverty line. The DOT will soon award maintenance contracts to all the toilets at the Luneta to indigent families.
• Arrivals: Malaysia has 22 million, Thailand 25-26 million. These countries each belong to a contiguous land mass. About half of Malaysia’s tourists actually come from Singapore who just have to cross the border by car. Nearly all foreign tourists arrive in the Philippines by air. Fortunately, the age of the budget airlines, notably Air Asia, has come. When the new Cebu airport terminal is built, it will be “a game changer,” says Jimenez. Many tourists will fly direct to Cebu, and bypass Manila. There will be literally two main gateways into the country.
• Revenues: Foreign tourists sleep at least one or two nights in the country. If you include the balikbayan, we average 8-9 days stay per foreign tourist arrival. Average spending per day per tourist is now $102, up from $90.
The DOT has moved from the branding phase (“More fun in the Philippines”) of the marketing campaign into the site-specific phase: Cebu (underwater sports and music), Davao (mountain climbing), Boracay (24/7 partying), etc. The third phase will focus on activities (bread making, cloth weaving, games, music, etc.) There is so much variety just within the country, there is enough reason to stay longer because there is much more to see and do, says Jimenez.
The Bohol case is an example of how to do it. It was propelled originally by the late Governor Erico Aumentado, who led the mayors to organize their communities to set up and promote tourism attractions, and to maintain them well. Bohol is moving more and more people out of poverty. And when its international airport is completed in Panglao, Bohol’s economy will flourish.
Tourism is the next big thing in inclusive growth. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is mobilizing to provide relevant training for tourism jobs. This is a strategically crucial industry. We must give it our full support.
Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and an independent development management consultant.
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