(From left) Singapore Polytechnic Innovation Office center director Neelesh Bhatia, Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI) tourism, retail and franchise director and Canadian Tourism and Hospitality Institute president Samie Lim, ASEAN-BAC Malaysia Healthcare Working Group chairman Dr. Hooshmand Palany, Belo Medical Group president and medical director Dr. Vicki Belo, Cultural Center of the Philippines chairman Margie Moran-Floirendo, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneuriship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion, Phinma Microtel Hotels president and CEO Jose Mari del Rosario, ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) Indonesia chair Anangga Roosdiono, Cibo president and CEO chef Margarita ‘Gaita’ Fores and ECHOstore founder Pacita Juan and the author.
‘In love with our natural attractions’
MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo (The Philippine Star) - June 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Without a doubt, the Philippines is on the list of must-visit destinations. Ours is a beautiful country with beautiful and hospitable people for all the world to see and experience.

The Duterte administration has made tourism an important driver of economic growth in the country. The promotion of rural tourism is part of its 10-point socio-economic agenda.

According to our vibrant and highly capable Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, tourism is “a priority sector expected to reduce poverty and inequality,” a sector that “will bind us as a nation proud, protective, and in love with our natural attractions, heritage and culture.”

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

 The Department of Finance stated that “a hefty part of President Duterte’s unparalleled public investments on his watch will be devoted to infrastructure servicing the tourism industry in keeping with his goal of transforming this sector into one major engine of growth to sustain the Philippines’ momentum as one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.”

That “hefty part” translates to an investment of $23 billion in tourism infrastructure to be spent between 2016 and 2022 under the President’s National Tourism Development Plan. This will make the tourism sector not just sustainable and highly competitive, but also socially responsible to boost inclusive growth and economic development.

 South Korea remained the country’s top tourism market with 22.3 percent share to the total Philippine tourist arrivals in 2018, with 1,587,959 visitors. China was second with 1,255,258 visitors in the country, followed by the US with 1,034,396, Japan with 631,801 and Australia with 279,821.

Not surprisingly, domestic travelers numbered 96.7 million as of mid-2018 and were expected to breach the 100-million mark by end of 2018. This figure already surpasses the 2022 target of 86.2 million four years in advance.

(From left) TV broadcaster Korina Sanchez-Roxas, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, AirAsia (Malaysia) Group CEO Tony Fernandes, Joey Concepcion and ASEAN-BAC 2019 (Thailand) chair Arin Jira.

This, despite the closure of Boracay for some months for much-needed rehabilitation, as well as the close monitoring of other popular tourist spots such as Siargao, Panglao and El Nido.

To date, the DENR, under the watchful eagle-eyes of Secretary Roy Cimatu, has not hesitated in serving notices of environmental violations or closure orders to errant resorts and tourism-related businesses.

It is within this context that the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) Philippines and Go Negosyo, both chaired and headed by Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. “Joey” A. Concepcion III, in partnership with the DOT and the Tourism Promotions Board, decided to come up with a Tourism Summit 2019 Philippines as a platform for discussion and reflection on what the ASEAN countries have done to improve the development of sustainable island tourism.

The summit also sought to address the importance of the tourism industry in empowering Filipino MSMEs as well as narrowing the gap among ASEAN countries in achieving sustainable socio-economic growth in the ASEAN region.

Event partners included the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network, Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI), Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry Inc., Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (Phil) Inc. and Henann Group of Resorts.

Philippine Airlines president Jaime Bautista, Ayala Corp. CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and PCCI president George Barcelon.

Keynote speakers were Joey Concepcion, who, as always, eloquently presented his vision and his concrete programs,  Secretary Puyat, ASEAN-BAC Thailand chair Arin Jira and AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes.

The summit involved five forums that touched on various aspects of the tourism industry.

Forum 1 dealt with opening up land, sea and sky for global tourism; Forum 2 on discovering the different island beats; Forum 3 on where tourists stay or accommodations; Forum 4 on so much to do, so much to see, so we make time; and Forum 5 on learning from the experts and lessons in keeping up the business.

I moderated Forum 5, which sought to bring together the diverse segments of the tourism sector: hospitality, medical tourism, culinary tourism and cultural tourism; highlighting best practices that make different business models in tourism sustainable.

The distinguished panel of experts  in this forum were PCCI tourism, retail and franchise director Samie Lim, Belo Medical Group president and medical director Dr. Vicki Belo, Cultural Center of the Philippines chairperson Margie Moran-Floirendo, Phinma Microtel Hotels president and CEO Jose Mari del Rosario, ASEAN-BAC Indonesia chairman Anangga Roosdiono and Cibo president and CEO chef Gaita Fores.

TV host Kim Atienza.

Interveners were ECHOstore founder Pacita Juan; ASEAN-BAC Malaysia Health Care Working Group chairman Dr. Hooshmand Palany and Singapore Polytechnic Innovation Office center director Neelesh Bhatia.

The discussion was lively, thought-provoking and insightful, which was a good thing, considering it was the last forum scheduled for the day.

Secretary Puyat aims to attract 12 million foreign tourists by 2022.

The tourism industry aims to generate some $71.8 billion in revenues by the time President Duterte finishes his term.

With the way things are going for tourism in the country, I am optimistic that those figures would be achieved in a shorter period of time.

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