By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

TOURISM DEV’T. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. holds a meeting with the Private Sector Advisory Council’s (PSAC) Tourism Sector at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Thursday (Jan. 18, 2024). Marcos and the PSAC-Tourism Sector discussed updates and recommendations to boost Philippine tourism’s global competitiveness. (Screengrab from Radio Television Malacañang)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday stressed the need to consolidate the country’s tourism services and promote its native cuisines and sports industry to boost the Philippines’s global competitiveness.

Marcos issued the statement after the Private Sector Advisory Council’s (PSAC) Tourism Sector, in a meeting at Malacañan Palace in Manila, presented to him its recommendations to attract more tourists.

During the meeting, Marcos cited Thailand’s tourism sector which he said has “a more organized” structure for tourism requirements, such as hotel and flight booking, and arrangement for a driver and tour guide for the tourists’ convenience.

Marcos said travel to Thailand is seamless for tourists since their needs are being taken care of by their service providers.

“I was talking to a friend and he said, ‘I am going to Thailand’. And I said ‘Why go to Thailand? Go to the Philippines where it’s nicer, cheaper’. But he said, ‘In the Philippines, [I book] the hotel, I have to be the one to arrange for my driver. I have to be the one to arrange my tour guide, and if I want to go out of town, and then I pay each step of the way,’” he said, as quoted by Malacañang.

“So, there’s the thing. I guess, you know, consolidate the system so that it’s because when you’re on vacation, you just want to stay at the beach and have a nice time. So, I think it’s the facilities that we have to develop,” Marcos added.

‘Visit, Stay, Spend, Return’

The PSAC-Tourism Sector made several recommendations to make the Philippines more competitive in the global tourism market, including the strategy encouraging visitors to “Visit, Stay, Spend, and Return” along with initiatives to simplify visa application processes.

Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said the advisory body recommended to temporarily offer a 30-day visa-free entry for tourists while the electronic visa (e-visa) process streamlining is ongoing.

Garafil added that it also pitched the idea of tapping a third-party service provider to handle the e-visa system.

“Another PSAC recommendation was the implementation of improvements in airport connectivity and capacity to help drive international demand, which means accelerating public-private partnership (PPP) of regional airports to increase international airport connectivity and capacity for international airlines and routes,” she said.

“Other critical initiatives cited include matching hotel supply of neighboring countries through better incentives such as VAT refund scheme for tourists,” she added.

Food, sports tourism

The PSAC, headed by Sabin Aboitiz of Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc., also cited the need to promote the Philippine native cuisine and the sports industry to attract more tourists.

The council said the country may opt to hold food festivals and host major sporting events.

Marcos directed the Department of Tourism to look into the potential of sports development to attract tourists, as well as showcase the country’s cuisines.

“The one area that I think is easy is sports development because they (athletes) are here, we just have to make the facilities better. Also, food tourism has huge potential but it is largely untapped, there’s a lot of room to improve,” he said.

PSAC members present during the meeting were Lance Gokongwei of JG Summit Holdings Inc., Lucio Tan III of LT Group, Rene Limcaoco of Hertz Philippines and Lourdes Josephine Gotianun-Yap of Filinvest Development Corporation.

Tourist arrivals in the Philippines reached over 5.4 million last year, with tourism receipts equivalent to PHP482.54 billion.

More than 1.4 million airline seats were booked, an 80-percent recovery of pre-Covid incoming seat capacity, based on recent government data. (PNA)