Pending tourism blueprint stymies TPB marketing push

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco (from CGF’s FB page)

THE Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) is still waiting on the Department of Tourism (DOT) to approve the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2022-2028 to be able to draw up the marketing strategies needed to attract their target markets.

Sources who attended the meeting between Tourism Secretary-designate Christina Garcia Frasco and TPB officials led by Chief Operating Officer Ma. Anthonette Velasco-Allones on July 18, told the BusinessMirror, “The TPB can’t finalize its strategic marketing program because there is no revised NTDP. So it’s unable to focus its marketing as there is still no decision on which portfolios should be promoted.” The Tourism Secretary chairs the board of directors of the TPB, which is the marketing arm of the DOT.

The NTDP is a medium-term roadmap outlining how the Philippines can achieve tourism competitiveness by marketing high-quality products and destinations. It also includes strategies to enhance connectivity from international airports to the Philippines, among the domestic ports, as well and improve infrastructure.

The NTDP 2022-2028 was drawn up in the last months of former Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, but was sent back to the developers for revision after consultation with national tourism stakeholders groups. It is pending final approval by the new DOT chief and tourism stakeholders.

Will she stay?

Frasco failed to respond to this paper’s query on whether she was inclined to have Velasco-Allones retained at her post, as the latter’s term of office already expired on June 30. It was extended to July 31 due to the transition from the Duterte to the Marcos Jr. administration.

A lawyer by profession, Velasco-Allones was well-liked by tourism stakeholders, who had appreciated her energy and “out-of-the-box thinking” to market Philippine destinations to both domestic and foreign tourists. During the pandemic, it was TPB which funded free RT-PCR tests to enable Filipinos to visit domestic destinations. The TPB board will have to appoint an officer-in-charge in case there is a vacancy in the COO post.

Under Republic Act 9593 (Tourism Act of 2009), the Tourism Congress of the Philippines recommends to the President the five TPB board members to represent accommodation enterprises; travel and tour services; land, air and sea tourist transport services; conventions and exhibitions services and suppliers; and  other tourism enterprises. In turn, it is the board which chooses the TPB COO.

Travel app improved

During their meeting, Frasco underscored  the need to maximize the use of Travel App 2.0, an application that highlights key and emerging destinations in the country. The digitalization of tourism products and offerings, she stressed, is a priority  of the  Marcos administration. Travel App 2.0 was softlaunched by the TPB recently, after tweaks to its forerunner “Travel Philippines” were made. The app is supposed to contain the most up-to-date info on local destinations including possible entry rules, tourism activities and products, and how to get there.

The new DOT chief also instructed TPB officials to reach out to the local government units (LGUs) and exhaust all assistance possible in their tourism-related requirements,  particularly in the lesser-known and underdeveloped destinations, “to equalize opportunities for tourism marketing and promotion.”

Frasco wants to strengthen projects and programs granted by the TPB to LGUs, by exploring tourism areas and communities that could be further improved. The DOT regional offices were supposed to have validated in the last two years “tourism circuits,” which include new products and neighboring provinces that can be marketed to travelers as major destinations. A list of the validated tourism circuits have also yet to be turned over to the TPB for marketing, said sources.

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