Government must promote PHL as sports tourism site

In Photo: A surfer rides the waves at the Cloud 9 spot on Siargao Island.

TO attract more local and foreign tourists, a vice chairman of the House Committee on Local Government on Sunday urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to include extreme sports and ecotourism destinations in its plan to set up a database of Philippine tourist attractions.

Nacionalista Party Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr. of Camarines Sur said promoting a site as a sports tourism hub has a higher probability of tourists returning to the area.

Villafuerte made a statement following the reported DOT plan to set up a database that will list all tourist destinations in the country, in response to the ever-changing preferences of tourists and tourism investors.

The lawmaker, citing the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said sports tourism is a $600-billion market that is expected to expand by an average of 5.3 percent annually.

He said sports tourism is projected to grow 6.1 percent from 2013 to 2020, and by 4.7 percent from 2020 to 2030.

The lawmakers also said the UNWTO tourism projections show that tourist arrivals in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to more than double to 541 million by 2030, from 204 million arrivals in 2010.

The UNWTO Confidence Index also forecasts growth to be stronger in Asia and the Pacific (+4 percent to +5 percent) and the Americas (+4 percent to +5 percent), followed by Europe (+3.5 percent to +4.5 percent).

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Villafuerte said tourism, as a percentage of the total GDP, contributed 8.2 percent to the economy in 2015.

He said employment in “tourism-characteristic” industries was estimated at 5 million in 2015, higher by 3.4 percent compared with 4.8 million in 2014.

He added the share of employment in tourism industries to total employment in the country was recorded at 12.7 percent in 2015.

Villafuerte cited the success of Camarines Sur, which is currently regarded as a famous sports and adventure destination.

“Our strategy was a resounding success, because sports hubs tend to get a high number of repeat visitors who have to stay weeks ahead before a sports event to adjust themselves to the weather in the area and train there. They also return to the place to improve their skills. Not only  that, they also come with their relatives and friends in tow,” he said.

Villafuerte added there are other areas in the country that can be marketed as sports destinations. These are San Mateo in Rizal for mountain biking; Baler in Aurora and Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte for surfing; Cagayan de Oro and Davao for whitewater rafting; Anilao in Batangas for diving; and Mindoro for windsurfing.

“Marketing tourist spots, such as beaches, into sports capitals or hubs is a value-added factor that helps sustain high tourist arrivals and incomes from tourism-related businesses,” he said.