By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo, December 3 2018; Business Mirror


Image Credit to Business Mirror

FOREIGN arrivals targets under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) will likely be scaled down in the wake of the closure of Boracay Island this year.

This was disclosed by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat to reporters on the sidelines of the recent annual general membership meeting of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP).  “The targets will definitely change,” she said, starting with the foreign arrivals this year. “We were expecting 7.4 million visitors [this year], but with the closure of Boracay, our top tourist destination, I highly doubt we’re going to reach that. But it will be higher than last year.” Targeted foreign arrivals for 2022 is 12 million, up 81 percent from last year’s actual arrivals of 6.6 million.

Not all targets will be cut, though; in some cases, an upward adjustment is called for. She said under the NTDP, the Department of Tourism (DOT) targeted to increase tourism’s contribution to the GDP to 10 percent. “Now it’s already 12.2 percent of GDP. Then our domestic tourists target by 2022 is 86.2 million, but we’re already at 97 million. So these are the things that have to be revised.”

In her speech to TCP members, Romulo Puyat said, “We are currently reviewing the implementation of the NTDP 2016-2022, and are prioritizing the improvement of policies on environmental protection, access, connectivity, security and enhancement of tourism products and infrastructure. By the first quarter of 2019, there will be a calibration of our targets in the NTDP.”

She added she wanted to consult with the TCP on the tourism products that they may want to “include or remove” in the tourism master plan.

For his part, TCP President Jose C. Clemente III said he “welcome[s] a revisit of the NTDP targets and programs, to make these more responsive to the needs of the industry.” He added that it was good idea for the DOT to “update its tourism products in support of the agency’s overarching thrust of sustainable tourism.”

The drafting of the NTDP 2016-2022 was started in August 2015 under former Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr., with its officials regularly consulting with tourism stakeholders for their inputs, several sources said. When this was turned over to his successor Wanda Corazon Tulfo Teo, however, the sector was hardly consulted before it was finalized and presented to President Duterte for approval.

One tourism veteran interviewed who requested anonymity told the BusinessMirror, “We kept asking the DOT for a copy but we never got the final copy. We would get just bits of information when they made short presentations to stakeholders, but to this day, we don’t even have a printed copy of the NTDP.”

The tourism executive said, “they [Secretary Teo’s administration] never even formally rolled out the plan. She apparently didn’t even want to print the NTDP. Normally there would be a formal presentation of the NTDP, like what was done under Secretary Jimenez, before it is implemented.” (See, “DOT  launches tourism blueprint,” in the BusinessMirror, May 6, 2012.)

Another tourism leader, who likewise declined to be identified, said “before there is any recalibration of targets, I hope the DOT can first give us copies of the NTDP so we can give our inputs. How can we stakeholders get on board and support the NTDP when we don’t even know what it is?” According to an NTDP brief prepared for a Cabinet meeting on April 3, 2017, a copy of which was obtained by this paper, focused group discussions and consultations with tourism stakeholders were supposed to have taken place from January 2016 to February 2017.

Under the tourism master plan, the DOT has identified nine major tourism products: nature-based tourism, which covers ecotourism, farm tourism and adventure tourism; cultural and heritage tourism; health wellness, and retirement tourism; MICE (Meetings Incentives Conventions Exhibitions) tourism; educational tourism; leisure and entertainment tourism; diving, underwater photography and marine sports tourism; and sun and beach tourism.

Under the NTDP, the DOT is also targeting to increase inbound revenue to P922 billion by 2022, from P353 billion in 2016; domestic revenue to P2.95 trillion in 2022, from P1.8 trillion in 2016; the number of people employed in the industry to reach 6.5 million from 5.2 million; raise the tourism industry’s share to total employment to 14.4 percent from 13 percent;  and lift the number of poor beneficiaries to 541,000 from 486,000.

Romulo Puyat told TCP members, though, that more than the numbers, it is striking the balance between business opportunities and social responsibilities, which matters most. “With the tourism sector’s increasing influence over economic and cultural development, we believe that it can also be a driving force in sustainable development in the country.”