D.O.T. retains foreign visitors goal but likely to adjust local tourism figures amid upswing


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THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is retaining its foreign tourist targets, after all.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat confirmed this after Malacañang on Friday announced that the government is targeting the arrival of some 8.2 million foreign visitors this year. Last year some 7.1 million foreigners visited the country.

In a Viber exchange with the BusinessMirror, the DOT chief said the targets for foreign visitor arrivals will be “retained” for 2019 to 2022, as originally stated in the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) of 2016-2022. Earlier, she had said the arrivals goals would likely be scaled down in anticipation of missing the 7.4-millon target in 2018, due to the closure of Boracay Island. (See, “Boracay closure prompts DOT to rework tourism goals,” in the BusinessMirror, December 3, 2018.)

Under the NTDP, the DOT is eyeing the arrival of 12 million foreign tourists by 2022, the end of President Duterte’s term. The NTDP is currently undergoing review and the DOT recently met with private tourism stakeholders to consult with them on possible revisions in the master plan.

But Romulo Puyat added that the targets for domestic travelers will definitely be revised. “We haven’t discussed it yet. But we have to [revise these numbers] because we’ve already exceeded our targets,” she stressed. Under the NTDP, the DOT has targeted domestic travelers to reach 89.2 million by 2022, from 76.3 million in 2018. But as of November 2018, domestic travelers were already at 97 million.

One of the major reasons the DOT is retaining its foreign visitors goals, she explained, is the reopening of Boracay Island. “The crown jewel of Philippine tourism has reopened.

And as we move towards completing the second and third phases of Boracay’s rehabilitation, we anticipate more tourists from abroad who are eager to see the many changes we have accomplished there.”

She added the launching of the “refreshed” brand campaign with the slogan It’s More Fun in the Philippines “will further raise the awareness on our beautiful islands in our key international markets.”

Lastly, Romulo Puyat said, in their consultations with the private tourism stakeholders, “They have expressed full support to the programs of the DOT. They are all geared up to attend the many travel and tourism fairs abroad, and enthusiastic to sell the Philippines to their foreign clients. The refreshed brand campaign will make it easier for them to do so.”

In a separate interview, DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning Benito C. Bengzon Jr. said, during the recent consultation meeting with the private sector regarding the NTDP, that “no one actually brought up revising the targets.” He said the tourism stakeholders were more concerned about the tourism products that the Philippines should be offering.

Both DOT officials are currently in Tel Aviv to attend the 25th International Mediterranean Tourism Market on February 12 and 13, the largest annual professional tourism fair in the Eastern Mediterranean. Some 25,000 tourism and travel executives regularly participate in the IMTM.

On Sunday, the Philippines hosted a reception for Israeli tourism stakeholders, which included a B2B (business-to-business meeting) with their counterparts from the Philippines.

The DOT has been developing Israel as a major source of tourists because of its strong historical ties with the Philippines. President Manuel L. Quezon gave Jewish refugees from Europe, who were being persecuted by the Nazi regime, sanctuary in the Philippines. Last year arrivals from Israel grew by 16.6 percent to 20,343.

DOT officials believe these numbers will increase significantly with the launching of direct flights between Manila and Tel Aviv by Philippine Airlines possibly this year.