THE Philippines is exploring new markets to encourage more divers to visit the country and boost the dive industry’s contributions to the economy.
In remarks at the opening of the first Philippine Tourism Dive Dialogue in Cebu on September 14 and 15, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said, “The focus of the Department of Tourism [DOT] is to target various markets, whether that be families, solo travelers, luxe travelers, barkadas [groups of friends], and the like. And we have very specific programs that are targeted to various dive niche markets.”
She added, “We have dive enthusiasts from all over the world and many jurisdictions, including North Asia, as well as Europe [who recognize] diving as a very strong product for the Philippines. We fully intend to capitalize on that and open up to new markets, especially in Europe in the Middle East by making sure that we can collaborate with the Department of Transportation to mount more flights from these jurisdictions.”
The dive industry contributed some ₱37 billion in visitor receipts in 2022, accounting for about 17.5 percent of the P209-billion total inbound tourism spend that year. The DOT failed to provide comparative periods for the dive receipts earned by the country, but a previous interview with agency officials estimated about 5 percent of total foreign visitors arrivals dive as a primary activity or as an optional tour. The agency also estimated that every diver spends anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 during his or her stay in the country.
Higher budget for dive agency
Under the National Tourism Development Plan 2023-2028, diving is identified as a major tourism product, for which the Philippines is well known. The country just won Asia’s Leading Dive Destination, its fifth straight recognition, at the World Travel Awards 2023.
DOT’s efforts to strengthen and support the country’s dive sector have been complemented by the allocation of a budget for the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), now considered a separate unit under the agency. Under the National Expenditure Program for 2024, the PCSSD was allocated a P14.2-million budget, some 49 percent higher than the P9.53 million approved under the General Appropriations Act this year.
Although the Dive Dialogue was held in her home province of Cebu in Central Visayas, Frasco said the event also highlighted other key and emerging dive destinations in the country. “It’s not only Central Visayas that is being featured [at this event]. We have also invited our stakeholders from all over the Philippines in the effort to expand the dive tourism portfolio of the Philippines,” she said.
Major dive spots in the Philippines include the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, Palawan; Balicasag Island, Bohol; Dauin, Dumaguete; the Verde Island Passage, known as the “center of marine biodiversity”; Coron, Palawan; Malapascua, Cebu; and Anilao, Batangas.
Accessible treatment for diver’s sickness
To strengthen the local dive industry, the DOT, through its infrastructure arm, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, has been providing hyperbaric chambers in key dive spots across the country. The hyperbaric chambers can be found in Mabini in Batangas, Panglao Island in Bohol, Mandaue in Cebu, and Puerto Princesa in Palawan.
More hyperbaric chambers will be turned over to Dumaguete in Negros Oriental, Boracay Island in Aklan, Puerto Galera in Mindoro Oriental, and Daanbantayan in Cebu. Hyberbaric chambers are used to treat decompression sickness of scuba divers.
At the two-day dialogue, panel discussions were held on Marine Environmental Protection and Conservation; Dive Niche Products: Free Diving, Scuba Diving, Black Water Diving, and Underwater Photography; Philippine Dive: Domestic/International Marketing Campaign; Safety, Standards, and Accreditation of Tourism-related Enterprises for Scuba Diving; and Investment Opportunities in the Dive Industry.
Image credits: DOT