Infra, information key areas to improve tourism competitiveness — tourism exec

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - October 9, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Infrastructure and access to information are among the key areas the tourism sector needs to work on in order to further boost its competitiveness, a tourism school executive said.

“Infrastructure and more than infrastructure, my second bet is information,” Fernando Roxas, executive director of the Asian Institute of Management Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism (AIM-DALT) told The Star.

In the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s recently released 2019 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report (TTCR), the Philippines climbed four spots to 75th out of 140 countries with a score of 3.8 in the index, with seven being the highest score.

“The country showed impressive improvement on overall infrastructure (90th to 80th) and ICT readiness (86th to 82nd), but still faces challenges when it comes to safety and security (135th),” WEF said.

Roxas said the Philippines needs to be able to give tourists more information online on what they can see and do in the country.

“Many of the students from abroad that we have here, what they tell me is that it’s so hard to get an idea of what we can get in the Philippines on the web. Not only is the information lacking, the platforms to actually book, reserve and pay are not there,” Roxas said.

He emphasized that there are other countries that allow tourists to book transportation services online even before their scheduled trips, in line with providing tourists seamless travel.

“It’s so difficult for a tourist to experience adequate infrastructure, give information and actually transact,” Roxas said.

“Those three are really difficult for the tourist. So I think those are the low-hanging fruits that we have to address,” he added.

Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. earlier said there is a need to improve the country’s air connectivity in order to boost competitiveness.

“As you know all the (airport) expansion plans in Metro Manila, the plan in Bulacan, but beyond Manila, we have to look at  improving the other airports, gateways,” Bengzon said.

While Bengzon lauded the improvement in the WEF competitiveness ranking, he emphasized that there is still a need to improve other airports in the country.

“What is important is that we need to accelerate the improvement of the other airports that are now benefiting from the strong penetration rate of low cost carriers,” Bengzon said.

“Because of the low-cost carriers, a lot of tourists are now going straight to the airports near resorts,” he added.

Bengzon earlier emphasized the opportunities brought by the high penetration of low-cost carriers in the ASEAN region.

He said the Philippines should strengthen its promotions in the ASEAN region given the potential to tap these markets brought by improving connectivity.

“We have to be more here in ASEAN,” Bengzon said noting the need to be more present in the short haul markets particularly in Southeast Asia.

“When you talk about the ability of the Philippines to compete or when you talk about the ability of the Philippines to get a share of the source market, when you look at Southeast Asia,we have a bigger chance,” Bengzon added.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said connectivity is the lifeblood of Philippine tourism.

“We are an archipelago and most of the tourists can reach us only by air,” Puyat said.

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