RP tourism up 1.5%
By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 13:28:00 02/07/2009
Filed Under: Tourism, World Financial Crisis
CANDABA, Pampanga, Philippines -- A gold medal. That's what
the 3.14 million tourist arrivals in 2008 meant for the Philippines,
an official of the Department of Tourism said here on Thursday.
Candaba Mayor Gerry Pelayo (purple shirt)
with DOT Usec Eduardo Jarque (in beige shirt)
"That's a 1.5-percent increase over
2007. It is the smallest ever for the last three or four years.
But when the whole world is having negative and some lucky
ones have zero growth, 1.5 [percent growth] is a gold medal,"
said Eduardo Jarque, tourism undersecretary for marketing.
"It's an achievement we are very proud of."
Statistics on the 3.14 million tourists,
topped by South Koreans and Americans, were obtained through
their disembarkation cards in airports and seaports, he said.
The rise in tourist arrivals was not due to the DOT alone.
"We have fantastic members of the travel
trade, hotel operators, airlines that offer promo rates. We
have offered various destinations, joined many travel fairs.
Also, local governments are active [in the promotion of tourism
in places] like Candaba," Jarque said.
Asked if the domestic tourism industry would
register consistent growth, he said, "No. no. Everybody
says it is expected for a rebound. Give it two years. [The
Philippines] is a good place to be in because our place is
stable, the industry is stable. It is expected to grow as
we offer more and more products more than ever before."
The latest come-on among international tourists
is bird watching.
The first volume of the book "Bird Watching
in the Philippines," prepared by the DOT and the Wild
Bird Club of the Philippines, has been promoting St. Paul
National Park and Rasa Island in Palawan, Mt. Palay-Palay
in Cavite, the coastal lagoon in Parañaque City, Subic
Bay in Zambales, Balanga wetlands in Bataan, Candaba in Pampanga,
Hundred Islands and Bani wetlands in Pangasinan, Olango Island
and Alcoy in Cebu and the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao
Launched in London last year, the bird watching
program will take a second promotional leg there this year.
According to Jarque, the economic crisis
also provides opportunities for investors to prepare for better
For instance, a Korean company opened the
Imperial Hotel in Cebu City last Friday. The Shangri-la on
Boracay Island is due to open in April.
"With more people working to promote
and market Philippine tourism and with more products, the
1.5-percent [growth] should really go up and when the [economy]
bounces, we will be more than ready," Jarque said.
Cesar Cruz, president of the Philippine Tour
Operators Association, said that given the history of tourism
in the country, the last three years showed "unprecedented
growth," especially when tourist arrivals surpassed the
two-million mark in 2006.
For Cruz, the 1.5-percent growth in 2008
was "a big achievement especially given the global crisis."
Last year's growth was "difficult to believe" but
it happened because of aggressive promotion, marketing and
product development, he said.