By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

PROUDLY LOCAL. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (center), Department of Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco (left), and United Nations Tourism Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili look around displays of regional products on the sidelines of the 36th Joint Meeting of the UN Tourism Commission for East Asia and the Pacific and the UN Tourism Commission for South Asia at Sheraton Cebu Mactan Resort in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu province on Friday (June 28, 2024). Marcos said the event highlights anew the robust recovery and continued appeal of the Philippines as a top travel destination. (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

LAPU-LAPU CITY, Cebu – The Philippines is in talks with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in coming up with a framework that would help countries, including Manila, attract more foreign investments into their respective tourism destinations.

Secretary Christina Frasco said discussions have already started and the Department of Tourism (DOT) is hoping this document would be out by the end of 2024.

“The UN Tourism has a specific template that they provide expert guidance to countries. So, this will be a measure that we will be working on with UN Tourism,” she said in an interview at the end of 36th Joint Commission Meeting of the Commission for East Asia and the Pacific and the Commission for South Asia (CAP-CSA) here on Friday.

“We hope to be able to produce it, if not this year, then next year, because we are eager for more tourism investments in the country, especially as this is the priority of our President,” she added.

The tourism investment guidelines, she said, would help the Philippines further expand its room keys, improve tourism infrastructure and open up other opportunities in the tourism value chain.

On top of this, the DOT is planning to produce a Philippine Hotel Industry Strategic Action Plan that would cover accommodation standards, skills matching, digitalization and strategic investments in key destinations across the country.

In a recent interview, Philippine Hotel Owners Association executive director Benito Bengzon Jr. said confidence in local investors are evident but agreed that there is a need to entice more foreign investment groups and hotel operators into the country.

“For us entice them, of course there has to be a stronger market demand, meaning, obviously we have to have more tourists, more visitors,” he said.

“The investment framework is something that we continue to look at very closely because we want to make sure that the overall investment framework, particularly for hotel investments, is comparable to what you would find in the region,” he added. 

Data from the DOT showed that the country’s room inventory as a whole is still lower compared to other neighboring states in Southeast Asia.

As of 2021, the Philippines ranks fifth in the region with 212,373 available rooms.

Meanwhile, the member states at the joint UN Tourism CAP-CSA meeting discussed ways forward for tourism in the region, especially on the need to promote education, innovation and investment.

Frasco said the member states also tackled green digital transformation and the introduction of sustainability measures in tourism enterprises.

Officials of the UN Tourism praised the successful Philippine hosting of the event. 

It followed the first UN Regional Gastronomy Forum for Asia and the Pacific that gathered over 600 local and foreign delegates from 43 countries. (PNA)