The private sector eyes a more vibrant tourism industry for year 2010 with the Tourism Congress already paving the way for further developments.
A result of the execution of Republic Act 9593, otherwise known as the Tourism Act, the Tourism Congress was convened on November 25, 2009, at Marriott Hotel in Newport City. This has allowed participating members of the tourism industry to start the process of organizing themselves in time for the implementation of other provisions in the Tourism Act for the coming year ahead.
“Tourism is the key economic driver of the country. High tourism also means high production; a robust tourism industry translates to a robust economy. The Act is a tool to make sure that infrastructure support is put in place, and to identify priority areas of development,” former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor emphasized.
“The whole idea to streamline the operations of the tourism department will give more ‘feet’ to the country’s marketing and promotional efforts,” Gabor noted.
Elected Presiding Officer of the 1st Tourism Congress, Gabor’s strong experience in reviewing such matters helped facilitate the flow of the session. She also noted, “I was consulted several times on the draft Constitution of the Tourism Congress, and this eased the rigorous process somehow.”
The Tourism Congress comprised forty-four (44) tourism organizations representing primary and secondary tourism enterprises as well as allied and relevant enterprises in the tourism sector throughout the country, including former tourism secretaries Gabor and Jose Antonio Gonzalez.
Rose Lifelong, President of the Hotel Services and Marketing Association (HSMA), was elected Secretary of the Tourism Congress. She said, “The Tourism Act provides for stronger private sector participation, as they are encouraged to look seriously at the roles they play in shaping the tourism industry in the country.”
Both Gabor and Libongco agreed that the whole industry was well-represented in the Tourism Congress. Key tourism leaders and players from the country’s key destinations such as Ilocos, Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, Iloilo, Boracay, and Davao, were in attendance.
“The regional representatives were united and very vocal of their concerns. Their views indeed contributed towards a holistic perspective on Philippine tourism,” Libongco added.
Angel Bognot, President of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies, Inc. (NAITAS), agreed, “We were pleased to hear the members from different regions speak out. They were all able to shine. We truly felt their passion and commitment to tourism development, and we saw the collaborative effort and cooperation amongst all who were present.”
“The Task Force did their part in consulting the private sector from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, different areas with specific needs,” Philippine Association of Travel Agencies Association (PATA) President Paz Alberto shared.
“In all, the consultative process and the deliberations were very fair, and the rule of the majority prevailed,” Alberto added.
The tourism industry was met with numerous challenges this year, mostly caused by external factors such as the H1N1 pandemic, typhoons, and the fiscal crisis. Despite these, the country remained optimistic and through the aid of private tourism companies, responded with the promotion of domestic tour packages.
Private tourism companies also noted other concerns such as the need for more infrastructures and a more integrated tourism promotional campaign. “We hope that with the more direct involvement of the private sector (through the Tourism Congress), these will be addressed, “Alberto further said.
With regard the airline and transportation sector, also an integral player in the advancement of tourism in the country, Felix Cruz of the Bureau of Airline Representatives (BAR) noted, “Air traffic negotiations, relations with international airlines, have always contributed to the over-all arrivals to the Philippines. We can expect a further boost in this area with the stronger role given to private sector.”
He added, “Global experts have projected a general upswing for the whole industry next year, as the world economy is also gearing for a gradual growth. While domestic tourism has been quite strong this year, we look forward to improvements in terms of bringing in more tourists to the country.”