The Department of Tourism’s latest campaign declares 2015 as ‘Visit The Philippines Year’ and invites domestic and foreign tourists to experience the Philippines for both business and pleasure as part of its plan to double visitor numbers by 2016
With nearly 5 million international visitors each year, the Philippines is no longer a niche tourist market. In fact, the number of foreign travelers entering the country has doubled since 2004, and tourism now directly accounts for more than 6% of all economic activity, while supporting about 4.3 million jobs, according to the Philippine government and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Despite this rising popularity, the Philippines sets itself apart from mass-market destinations, offering visitors a “more fun” experience through its truly breathtaking beauty and the genuine warmth and friendliness of its people.
An archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines’ many white-sand shores rank among the world’s most beautiful beaches, but it is not just the stunning blue water and the fiestas that make it such a memorable place to visit. The Philippine people have earned a reputation for their vivaciousness, generosity, and most of all their openness toward visitors. The Philippines was chosen as the second friendliest country in the world by readers of the Rough Guide travel books in 2014. It also ranks among the most welcoming countries in the world to foreign travelers in the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report, with a more favorable environment than Australia and the United Kingdom and placing far ahead of countries such as Mexico, France, Italy and the United States.
|The archipelago of more than 7,000 islands ranks among the world’s friendliest countries and as asia’s most improved in terms of tourism competitiveness|
The WEF also commended the Philippines’ progress in its report, calling it the most improved country in Asia in terms of the competitiveness of its tourism industry. It cited specifically the strong backing of the government, which invested more in the sector as a percentage of GDP than any other country in the world. This welcoming attitude and optimism has helped make it a favorite destination for many Americans who, despite the length of the journey, make up the second largest group of foreign visitors in the Philippines, with nearly 675,000 stays in 2013 alone.
Also paramount to its emergence as a top global destination will be important advances in the openness of the Philippines’ aviation sector. In April of this year, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the civil aviation status of the Philippines, expressing renewed confidence in its safety and performance, and opening the door to direct flights between the two countries.
“What has more impact to trade, investment, and tourism is the aviation rating upgrade,” says Director General Lt. Gen. William Hotchkiss III of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. “This will open up our skies. Air transportation is the favorite mode of interconnectivity among countries and people. We are still in the early stages of this development. We are also working to develop the Asean single aviation market.”
While most visitors to the Philippines come for the pleasure of the experience, its advanced healthcare industry continues to be a draw for people seeking top-notch medical care and personal treatment at affordable prices. Currently, 21 premier hospitals nationwide take part in the Philippine Medical Tourism Program (PMTP), which aims to organize and promote critical medical services on an international level. While the sector has expanded consistently over the past decade, work needs to be done to reach its full potential as one of the most promising businesses in the country, organizers say. That’s why healthcare professionals have teamed up with the tourism ministry to promote individual and family health packages to entice tourists from all over the world.
Going forward, these trends make the Philippines an important country to watch in the global tourism market. The WEF forecasts that overall industry growth will surpass 6% annually until 2022, while the current administration expects to hit a target of 10 million foreign travelers by 2016, which would represent yet another doubling of its foreign visitors. The government aims to make tourism an important generator of job growth. According to its forecasts, the industry will account for nearly one-tenth of the nation’s GDP and create millions of additional jobs by 2016.
In January the Department of Tourism announced the latest push to highlight the country’s attractions, declaring 2015 as ‘Visit The Philippines Year’. Secretary of the Department of Tourism Ramon R. Jimenez Jr., and his counterparts in the private sector have been working to feature the archipelago’s unique cultural and geographic assets in a variety of public activities as part of this latest initiative. “The Philippine tourism industry has received levels of support from the national government, from local governments and the private sector on an unprecedented scale,” said Mr. Jimenez at the launch of the campaign.
Next year, the Philippines will also host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, giving it a global spotlight to promote the tourism industry. In typical fashion, organizers plan to create many memorable experiences, beginning in January and lasting throughout the year.
“Visit The Philippines Year will feature a calendar of events and activities that are an exciting mix of all the outstanding work of the Filipino people in painting and the graphic arts, cinema, performance art to include music, dance and theater arts, as well as the unveiling of many more historic treasures, natural wonders and unforgettable adventures,” the Tourism Secretary affirmed.