Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco answers: What’s to love about the Philippines?

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco answers: What�s to love about the Philippines?
The Philippines has been named the World’s Leading Dive Destination for the year at the World Travel Awards in Dubai.
STAR/ File

At a recent lunch with tourism stakeholders at the Dusit Thani Manila, I asked Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco: “If foreigners saw you in the hotel lobby and didn’t know that you were the tourism secretary of the Philippines and asked, ‘What’s to love about the Philippines?’, what would you say?”

In a heartbeat, she replied: “It starts with the fact that the Filipino people are the best asset of Philippine  tourism. They’re the ones that entice our tourists to come back again and again. Of course, aside from that, we are now the world’s leading beach and dive destination and Asia’s best cruise destination.”

The Philippines has overshot its tourism arrival target with 5,069,752 visitor arrivals as of Dec. 12, 2023. “Of this number, 4,658,123 or 91.88 percent are foreign tourists, while the remaining 411,629 or 8.12 percent are Overseas Filipinos,” said Frasco. The target for next year is 7.7 million.


Aside from the Philippines clinching the best beach and dive destination honors (for the second time in a row) at the World Travel Awards 2023 held in Dubai recently, the city of Manila was named as the World’s Leading City Destination. (According to its website, the World Travel Awards was established in 1993 and is  “recognized globally as the ultimate hallmark of industry excellence.”)

The Philippines has also been named the world’s leading beach destination at the World Travel Awards.

A new feather in the Philippines’ cap  is the title of Asia’s Best Cruise Destination 2023, given at the prestigious World Cruise Awards.  In fact, there have been 125 cruise calls in the Philippines in 2023. Now, this is something to crow about since the Philippines, in the past, was usually missing the port calls of leading cruise lines.

(The World Cruise Awards is affiliated with the renowned World Travel Awards.)

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco.


We have all the more reason to love K-Drama because the South Koreans topped the number of visitors to the Philippines in 2023 (1.341 million), gamsahabnida! They were followed by the Americans, 836,694; the Japanese, 285,655; and the Chinese, 252,171. The Australians round up the top five with 238, 487 visitors to the Philippines.

The over five million visitors  poured P439.5 billion into the country from January to November 2023, for a recovery rate based on international visitor receipts of  95.85 percent!

Better than dole-outs are jobs, and there were 5.35 million Filipinos employed in various tourism industries in 2022 alone.

“This means 11 in every 100 Filipinos are in tourism-related jobs,” Frasco pointed out.

To enhance visitor experience in the Philippines, the Department of Tourism has  trained 124,116 workers “in the Filipino brand of service excellence” as of Dec. 5 this year.

According to Frasco, the Philippines was one of the last countries in the Asean to open up after the devastating pandemic.

She said the country has bounced back and recovered 65.54 percent from January to September 2019 and registered a recovery rate of 62 percent in Asia and the Pacific, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer of November 2023.

Frasco said that the top request  and concern of most visitors to the Philippines, was — you guessed it — clean and working public toilets. Thus, 18 rest areas from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi were built in the country in 2023, which house not just rest rooms but lounge areas, pasalubong centers, even a breastfeeding area!

For those who work from wherever in the world they are, 94 tourist destinations now boast improved internet connectivity. There are also hop-on/hop-off buses plying the streets of Metro Manila.

Thanks to rosquillos

Frasco said that another concrete achievement was the construction of 158 kilometers of tourism roads.

Now, if only the government would spruce up the roads, islands and sidewalks along Ninoy Aquino Avenue, which is the first thing you see upon exiting NAIA Terminal 1. It is unkempt, unlike the avenue that greets you when you emerge from Singapore’s Changi Airport. Next to the airport, it is the first impression you have of the Philippines if you’re traveling through Terminal I.

Frasco told me the sprucing up and rehab of the area (mostly cosmetic, really, but would make a world of a difference) is under the purview of the Department of Transportation. But she said she would put a word in regarding this matter.

After all, we should love the Philippines even at first sight, ‘di ba?

I asked Frasco, who is model-slim, where she gets her energy.

“From rosquillos!” she replied, again in a heartbeat. Rosquillos are biscuits that originated from Liloan, Cebu made famous by the grandmother of her husband, Deputy Speaker Duke Frasco. 

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