ROUTES ASIA: Philippines Invests in its Future

The Department of Tourism for the Philippines is seeking to maximise the contribution of tourism to the socio-economic development of the South East Asian island archipelago, its Honourable tourism secretary, Ramon Jimenez, Jr, outlined to The HUB Daily during an interview at this year’s Routes Asia in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia this week.  He said “investor confidence remains high and credit ratings continue to be upgraded,” as 4.7 million visitors generated around $4.3 billion in tourist receipts last year (a 7.2 per cent GDP share, the highest in the ASEAN region).

“To provide the strategic direction for the Philippine tourism industry in the medium term, we have crafted the National Tourism Development Plan.  The NTDP as we call it seeks to maximise the contribution of tourism to socio-economic development,” explained Jimenez Jr.

The goal now is to boost foreign visitors to 10 million a year by 2016, raising tourism receipts above the $10 billion milestone and creating three million additional jobs and according to Jimenez, a key strategy to meeting this goal is to promote greater international air access into the country, particularly into the Philippines’ secondary airports.

“This is why we are very excited to be in Routes Asia for the third straight year as it has always provided an effective platform to build relationships with our partners from the airline and travel industry,” he said.  “Apart from our participation in aviation exhibitions, part of our game plan is to organize familiarisation tours for route network planners of global and regional airlines to create more awareness on what we have to offer.”

By end of July 2014, Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila will be fully operational. And in 2015, the rehabilitation of Terminal 1 of NAIA would be completed. Meanwhile, the country's second largest gateway, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, will have its passenger terminal building expanded to increase annual capacity from 4.5 to 8.0 million passengers. Similarly, Kalibo International Airport, the gateway to Boracay, one of the world's best beaches, will also have its terminal building expanded and other airports that are being upgraded include Puerto Princesa, Daraga, Cagayan de Oro and Bohol.

Under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino, Philippines has adopted a more liberalised civil aviation policy.  Through an Executive Order signed three years ago, foreign carriers can now offer unlimited number of flights into its secondary airports.  “We envision these airports to account for an increasingly larger share of inbound traffic to the Philippines. Over the past few years, we have already seen international flights from major Asian cities into these secondary airports,” said Jimenez Jr.

The Philippines, through its Civil Aeronautics Board, also continues to offer a very attractive and liberal framework to encourage charter flights.  “We have thus had an increasing number of such flights from Korea, China, Taiwan and Russia. These charters, most of which are offered almost year-round, have contributed to the rapid development of resort destinations such as Cebu and Boracay,” said Jimenez Jr.

Today, charter flights carry hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors to the country.  In the next couple of years, the NTDP sees enormous growth opportunities in Legaspi, Bohol and Puerto Princesa.  “We therefore invite charter operators to take a closer look at these new gateways. We commit to provide you marketing support and to liaise with other government agencies to ensure that the charters are successfully organised,” Jimenez Jr added.

Philippines is also taken a more aggressive and strategic approach to its bilateral air agreements.  As the Philippines is an archipelago that is 99 per cent dependent on air access for its foreign visitors, it has had to step up our air negotiations with partner countries to address the demand for additional seats and frequencies on existing routes and remains on the lookout for opportunities to open new services.  “Through our air negotiations last year, we were able to increase frequencies and open new routes in Japan and Australia. We also saw the return of Philippine carriers to Europe and the Middle East. This year, we have already had successful air talks with France, Singapore and New Zealand, and we expect to conduct several more between the second quarter and the end of this year,” said Jimenez Jr.

Elsewhere, Jimenez Jr noted that further investment was essential in facilities to support the expected growth in visitors.  “To address the growing demand for accommodations of foreign and domestic tourists, we have been encouraging investments in hotels, resorts and other similar facilities,” he said.  In Manila alone, about 16 international brand hotels will be completed by 2016 adding over 6,000 quality rooms and similar developments are planned in major tourist destinations in the country.

You can learn more about the plans of the Department of Tourism for the Philippines in our exclusive video interview with Secretary, Ramon R Jimenez, Jr from this year’s Routes Asia forum in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.

Ramon Jimenez Jr, Honourable Secretary, Philippines Department of Tourism speaks about the country's tourism development strategy.