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Bringing in the “era of tourism”

The Philippines is finally prepared to welcome an “era of tourism” after suffering for more than two years from the terrible consequences of the virus.

The Department of Tourism (DOT), along with many agencies and partners, has been developing standards to pandemic-proof domestic travel since the start of the global health crisis that closed borders and grounded planes.

In February, the nation successfully reopened its borders using these principles.

The nation has relaxed a number of pandemic rules, including the need for vaccinated travelers to undergo testing and quarantine, as well as the requirement for wearing masks outdoors.

According to DOT, 2022 was a year of gradual recovery for the industry as it exceeded expectations and outperformed results from 2021.

According to the most recent data, the tourist sector has already surpassed its original 1.7 million targets of international arrivals and reached over PHP149 billion in revenue.

The DOT is committed to advancing the travel industry in 2023 while “actively innovating to meet the challenges of our day,” bearing in mind the lessons it has gained from the previous two years.

The DOT is pursuing a seven-point strategy under the new administration, with a particular emphasis on travel convenience and improving the connection and quality of the destinations.

Building infrastructure

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco stated that DOT would keep collaborating with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways to upgrade infrastructure in important travel destinations as well as the nation’s airports and seaports during a year-end assessment briefing.

“We have been marketing our country for a long time, but we still wonder why we can never seem to get past our number 5 and number 6 positions in the ASEAN,” she remarked.

This time, we have made the decision to turn within to consider what else we can do to give the Philippines a fighting chance and develop into a tourism powerhouse in Asia. We’ve been able to identify the many areas in which our destinations still need improvement thanks to our inward-looking attitude, she continued.

The Philippines will soon showcase an “enhanced version” of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 that incorporates local design cues, furnishings, natural materials, and plants.

Other gateways, such as the Davao International Airport and Cebu City Pier One, will duplicate the concept.

Additionally, the DOT is negotiating with domestic and foreign airlines to resume pre-pandemic routes that were halted and to increase flying capacity to important Philippine locations.

Additionally, the DOT is constantly working to hasten the digitalization of all national tourism transactions.

To increase internet access in 94 designated destinations and combine tourism transactions into a single system, it signed a contract with the Department of Information and Communications Technology just last month.

“Easy travel experience”

Even if they are simple, the DOT is expanding the number of rest stops to improve the traveling experience for foreign tourists.

“Over the past five months, we have aggressively broken ground on tourist rest spots around the Philippines. I’ve always maintained that having access to clean, adequate restrooms is one of the most fundamental requirements for any journey,” Frasco remarked.

While it might be simple, she noted, “[W]e’ve finally chosen to solve this simple infrastructure issue.”

As of the time of this writing, the nation has already started construction at a number of tourist destinations, including Carmen, Medellin, Carcar City, and Moalboal in Cebu, as well as Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon, Samal Island in Davao del Norte, Baguio, and Dauis in the island of Panglao in Bohol.

In order to increase the accessibility of emergency services, including the deployment of hyperbaric chambers in Philippine dive sites, the agency is also collaborating with the Department of Health.

The DOT started discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs to create an electronic visa platform in significant markets and to extend the duration of stay for nations without visas in order to facilitate admission into the country even more.

DOT declared that it would concentrate on growing the markets for visa facilitation services in China and India.

“The Filipino Experience”

In contrast, the planned “Philippine Experience” caravan is expected to debut in 2023.

The new marketing initiative will give travelers a window into not only the nation’s world-class tourist attractions but also the Filipino heritage and all the subtleties that contribute to Philippine culture’s singularity.

“We believe that by promoting the best aspects of Filipino culture to the rest of the world, we will be able to provide our nation the opportunity to catch up to and stand shoulder to shoulder with our ASEAN neighbors who have been able to vigorously advocate for their cultures as well,” Frasco added.

The DOT is extending the promotion of sun and beach, scuba diving, marine sports, and nature travel in its range of tourism products.

Education, health, and cruise tourism, food and gastronomy, culture and heritage, halal tourism, and film tourism are all in the planning stages. The DOT also recognized arts as a tourism offering for the first time, bolstering support for the creative sector.

As a result of President Ferdinand R. Marcos’ order to fully reopen the region for tourism, Mindanao is also at the top of the DOT’s list of priorities.

We have worked closely with the Department of National Defense (DND), with whom we will be signing a Memorandum of Agreement, to make sure that peace and security would be the cornerstone of Mindanao’s reopening to tourism, according to Frasco.

Given that we will be collaborating closely with the DND, the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), and the Regional Task Force Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC), she continued, “We’re extremely optimistic about the success of this reopening.”

According to her, the agencies will decide which places will be used as test sites for the Mindanao reintroduction.

‘Optimistic’

A moving goal of 4.8 million foreign visitors and at least USD 5.8 billion in revenue has been established by DOT for 2023.

“While we will use these as a standard, we are convinced that we will make every effort to have an even more optimistic number of arrivals in the upcoming year. But that will serve as our starting point, Frasco said.

Frasco anticipates “extremely exciting and positive” years for the sector, with a variety of activities in the works.

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