A while back I wrote about the tourism industry’s potential to become a major dollar earner for the country, after remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the business-process outsourcing (BPO) industry and exports.
In an industry report, the World Bank said the Philippines generated $6.42 billion in tourism receipts in 2015. In another report, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said international tourists brought in a total of P313.6 billion ($6.27 billion at P50 to $1).
The amount does not include domestic tourism expenditure, which amounted to P2.11 billion in 2016, up 19 percent from P1.77 billion in 2015.
The Department of Tourism, in its latest report on industry performance, said tourism generated earnings amounting to P146.34 billion ($2.29 billion) in the first half of 2017, up 14.8 percent from the same period last year, as tourist arrivals grew.
Tourist arrivals grew 12.7 percent to 3.357 million, compared to 2.978 million a year ago.
The subject came back to mind following the administration’s proposal for a P10.1-billion budget for airport development in 2018, including the upgrading of six regional gateways, to enhance the tourism potential of key destinations.
In his transmittal letter to Congress, President Duterte said the proposed budget would expand existing airports and build new ones.
In terms of enhancement, Clark International Airport will receive P2.7 billion to improve its night-landing capabilities. The airport in Pampanga is becoming a major gateway for tourism in central and northern Luzon, aside from being an alternate airport to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
About P900 million is proposed for a new international airport in Daraga, Albay, which aims to make the province “an economic powerhouse by decongesting the crowded Legazpi airport, thereby attracting more tourists”.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) considers the Bicol region as one of the top tourist destinations in the country.
Other airports that will be constructed or scheduled to be rehabilitated next year include the New Bohol (Panglao) International Airport, Kalibo Airport in Aklan, Tacloban Airport in Leyte, Cauayan Airport in Isabela and the Zamboanga International Airport in Zamboanga del Sur.
The improvement in regional airports is expected to boost tourism because visitors could go straight to destinations instead of passing through the congested Naia. Increased accessibility, after all, is key to bringing more visitors to areas that are being promoted as attractive destinations.
For a country with more than 7,000 islands, improving airport facilities is an efficient and important means to link these islands, both for Filipinos and visitors.
I welcome this development not only because of the contribution of tourism to our GDP, which the PSA estimates at 8.3 percent in 2016.
Equally important is tourism’s contribution to employment. According to the PSA, employment in tourism and tourism-related industries was estimated at 5.2 million in 2016, up 5.1 percent from the previous year. This gave the tourism industry a 12.8-percent share in total employment in 2016.
An important feature in tourism as an employment generator is that the jobs are created in the provinces, where many of the tourist spots are located. This means that job opportunities are created not in urban areas but in the provinces, where poverty is more prevalent (precisely because jobs are limited to agriculture and a few industries).
In sum, expanding and modernizing existing airports and building new ones, particularly in the provinces, create a multitude of benefits: boost tourist arrivals and earnings; contribute more to the economy; create more jobs; and, eventually, lead to reducing poverty in areas that have been left behind by urbanization.
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