DOT seeks to rationalize airports development to boost tourist connections

THE Department of Tourism (DOT) aims to improve the traveler’s experience to, and within, the Philippines, in keeping with the Marcos administration’s goal to revive the tourism industry and regain its place as an engine of economic growth.

In a news statement, Tourism Secretary-designate Christina Garcia Frasco said, government should be able to improve the quality of existing ports of entry  whether via land, sea, or air, and shorten the trip of tourists from said ports to their destination. “While it’s true that we do have available international airports at certain gateways across the Philippines, the reality is that many of these airports are simply not yet of the global standard that would put us at par with our direct competitors in the Asean member nations.”

She added, “There’s also a need to revisit the capacity of these airports as that will greatly determine whether or not there would be an addition of direct flights to our tourist destinations. [There] is also a necessity to identify and study which particular tier one and tier two tourism destinations are still in need of ports of entry or need of improvement as far as ports of entry is concerned.”

These and other plans were presented by Frasco to the Cabinet on July 12. She said her agency’s objectives include: “The improvement of tourism infrastructure and accessibility; a cohesive and comprehensive digitalization and connectivity; enhancement of the overall tourist experience; equalization of tourism product development and promotion; diversification of portfolio through multi-dimensional tourism; maximization of domestic tourism; and strengthening tourism governance through close coordination with  local government units and stakeholders.”

Convergence, harmony

In her news statement, the DOT chief, however, failed to mention specific targets for foreign tourist arrivals and visitor receipts, domestic trips and revenue, employment, as well as strategies to sell the country to major and opportunity markets, as would have been contained in the National Tourism Development Plan 2022-2028.

The NTDP is usually drawn up by the previous administration for fine-tuning and implementation by the succeeding one. If approved, the NTDP 2022-2028 would be the third iteration of the roadmap.

Meanwhile, Frasco said the DOT will continue its convergence programs with the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Department of Transportation, to improve connectivity of tourism destinations.

Also, regional tourism circuits will be established to enhance the product offerings of groups of provinces and islands.

She said efforts will be made to harmonize protocols of  the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government, as well as local government units (LGUs) to improve the traveler’s experience.

For instance, arriving passengers have complained of the confusion in filling up the DOH’s One Health Pass, which issues a separate barcode and QR code. Some LGUs also continue to ask visitors to obtain a QR code or take an RT-PCR/Antigen test, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Diversify product offerings

To spread economic benefits to tourism stakeholders across the country, the DOT aims to strengthen its offerings in nature-based tourism; Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE); heritage and culture; food tourism; health wellness and retirement; and the arts.

“There is no question as to the richness of our heritage and the vastness of our culture, but, there is definitely still a need for national government to offer technical assistance to local governments, so we can harness these aspects of our country and package them in a manner at par with the finest offered by other countries. [We will] make our country’s offerings characteristically Filipino,” Frasco explained.

She echoed Marcos’s pronouncement that the country should bank on domestic tourism and explore this simultaneously with international tourism to yield better economic returns.

The agency eyes setting up tourist service centers and rest areas across the regions, after meeting with Cebu tourism stakeholders last weekend. (See, Cebu tourism stakeholders hopeful for recovery,” in the BusinessMirror, July 12, 2022.)

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