Back to the basics
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
According to the Bureau of Immigration, the number of foreigners who entered the Philippines through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals alone was 3.4 million for January to December 2010 despite the negative travel advisories. The figure is up by almost 20 percent compared to 2009 arrivals. The information from the BI shows that arrivals totaled 3,451,688 in 2010, 19.5 percent higher than the previous year’s 2,887,303.
Immigration officer-in-charge Ronaldo Ledesma points out that the negative advisories by foreign governments warning their citizens from going to the Philippines did not have any impact on tourism arrivals, even saying that foreign arrivals peaked during the last quarter of the year when most of the advisories were issued due to alleged terror attacks in the country.
The 20 percent increase in foreign tourist arrivals in the face of negative travel advisories may sound like a stellar achievement, but it is only impressive only until the 3.4 million visitors that we got is compared to our neighbors in the region, such as Thailand who got 14.15 million tourists visiting in the same period, during a time when that country was racked by riots, political instability, and even the closure of its biggest airport.
The increase in tourist arrivals despite the negative travel advisories that we got last year is a good indication of the faith and confidence of those 3.4 million tourists in the Philippines as a travel destination. The Department of Tourism surely deserves credit for that achievement but it shouldn’t pat itself in the back for too long because there is still a lot of work to be done if our country, which certainly has the climate, the people, and the attractions required to become a major tourism hotspot, is to live up to its full potential. If the government will just put more emphasis on tourism and everything that is related to it, especially with regards to the sorely lacking infrastructure and support systems that tourists need to make their stay hassle-free and memorable.
Last year the DOT tried (and miserably failed) a rebranding effort. Maybe this year they should just stick to the basics such as accessibility and security to improve the quality of available tourism options by working closely with other government agencies to put those critical elements in place, and then, maybe, everything else will follow.*