Tourist arrivals in the Philippines may be among the lowest in Southeast Asia, but a ranking official doesn’t mind, as long as the country attracts “high-value” visitors.
“Our numbers may seem low compared to Malaysia, for example, but we must take intra-ASEAN visitors into account,” Tourism Promotions Board chief operating officer Domingo Ramon Enerio said Thursday.
In 2012, the Philippines attracted 4.3 million tourists, lower than Malaysia (25 million), Thailand (22.4 million), and Singapore (14.5 million), ASEAN data showed.
But unlike its neighbors whose visitors were mostly from within the region, about 80 percent of tourists in the Philippines were from other high-income countries.
“We are targeting high-value tourists, who tend to stay longer and spend more,” Enerio said at the sidelines of the Philippine Tourism Exchange at the SM Mall of Asia.
Assistant Secretary for International Tourism Promotions Benito Bengzon, Jr. agreed, noting that in 2013, tourists spent some $4.5 billion in the Philippines.
“This meant that every foreigner spent around $1,000 in the country, excluding air fare. We want to increase that to around $1,500 per visitor,” Bengzon said.
He added that the government aims to boost tourist expenditure by offering more attractions and enhancing tourism offers such as travel packages.
Both Enerio and Bengzon nonetheless admitted that the boost in tourism spending should still be accompanied by an increase in the number of tourists visiting the country.
The government is targeting 6.8 million visitors this year, up from 4.7 million in 2013. President Benigno Aquino III is pushing for 10 million arrivals by 2016.
The Tourism officials also recognize the urgent need to address hurdles in the tourism industry, particularly the longstanding problem on infrastructure.
Philippine infrastructure, specifically in terms of airports and seaports, was among the areas the World Economic Forum tagged in its latest Global Competitiveness Report.
But Bohol Rep. Rene Relampagos, who is also House Tourism Committee chairman, is optimistic that Aquino’s “ambitious” tourism goal by the end of his term is achievable.
“The Philippines has emerged not only as an alternative destination but a necessary part of international travelers’ itinerary,” he said in his speech during the MOA event.
The congressman cited as proof how PHITEX attracted more than 200 foreign delegates this year, up from the 170 in 2013. This is the 13th PHITEX so far.
PHITEX is organized by the government and private sector to encourage tourism buyers—tour operators and other industry players—to promote Philippine destinations.