'More investments needed to boost tourist arrivals'
MANILA, Philippines - The government’s effort to promote the Philippines as a tourist destination is helping attract visitors to the country, but more investments would be needed before the number of arrivals could match that of neighbors in Southeast Asia, an economist said.
University of Asia and the Pacific economist Victor Abola said that while the government is doing its best to promote the country to tourists, the country may have to wait much longer before the same number of visitor arrivals in other countries in Southeast Asia are seen here.
“It will take up to a decade for us to reach the number of tourist arrivals in our ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors. This is because we need to put the infrastructure to get to the destinations seamlessly, and the hotels where they can feel at ease,” he told The STAR.
Data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) released last week showed that while the Philippines’ commercial service exports rose in the second quarter from last year, it was still behind compared to other countries in the region.
The data showed that Philippine commercial service exports which cover tourism, transportation, business process outsourcing and financial services, reached $3.782 billion in the April to June period, up 10.7 percent from the same period last year.
The country’s commercial service exports for the period was small compared to Singapore’s $28.909 billion, Thailand’s $10.096 billion, Malaysia’s $9.252 billion and Indonesia’s $5.645 billion.
Abola said the Philippines lags behind other ASEAN countries in terms of commercial service exports because the Philippines’ peers in the region have much higher tourism receipts.
“Remember the number of tourist arrivals there in Malaysia and Thailand is around four times that of the Philippines,” he said.
According to the Department of Tourism (DoT), tourist arrivals to the Philippines reached 3.917 million last year, beating the 3.52 million record seen in 2010.
Data from the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board showed that Malaysia attracted 24.7 million visitors last year.
Thailand meanwhile, had 19 million tourist arrivals in the previous year.
Latest data from the DoT showed tourist arrivals to the Philippines in the January to September period reached 3.15 million, 9.08 percent higher than in the same period a year ago.
The DOT said the higher tourist arrivals was seen for the period with most markets posting positive growth rates.
The government, which launched the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign earlier this year, is aiming to attract 10 million visitors by 2016.