DOT pushes for sustainability in tourism industry
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - May 6, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines —  The Department of Tourism (DOT) continues to put sustainability at the forefront of the tourism industry as it places environment protection as an important indicator of destination development.

“We have now come up with new standards in destination development and promotions. Before we never even talk about sustainability and easement...,” Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said, noting this is a lesson that the Boracay experience has taught the country.

Last year, Boracay was closed for six months to pave the way for the island’s rehabilitation.

The government began implementing a carrying capacity for the island upon its soft opening last October. Only 19,215 tourists are allowed to be on the island at a certain time, with 6,405 tourists allowed to enter the island per day.

“What is important is that when we look at these other destinations, we have to have a new set of standards that will define our involvement in destination development,” Bengzon said. “It’s just no longer about the headcount. We have to look at other, if not equally important, aspects of the entire value chain.”

Last year, the Philippines welcomed a total of 7.1 million foreign tourists. The number is still lower than foreign arrivals in its ASEAN neighbors, particularly Thailand’s 38 million annual tourist arrivals.

Bengzon said being an archipelago has impact on the entry of tourists into the country, noting that more than 97 percent of foreign arrivals in the Philippines are by air.

Asked if the country would ever have the capacity to accommodate the number of foreign tourists as much as Thailand, Bengzon said the DOT remains focused on achieving its current targets under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP).

“In the masterplan, we never talked about such a huge number. We’re still looking at 2022,” Bengzon said.

Based on the NTDP, the country is targeting to achieve 12 million foreign arrivals by 2022.

“The most important thing to keep in mind is that we determine the kind of volume that we can handle that would still ensure that our visitors have quality service,” Bengzon said.

The tourism undersecretary said ensuring the revenue scheme of the tourism industry is more important than the number of tourists.

“To make sure that revenue cascades down to the community level is when we would say that we would have been more inclusive and sustainable,” Bengzon said.

BORACAY DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
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