MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco on Wednesday, March 15, formally unveiled the completed National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023 to 2028 at the Tourism Stakeholders’ National Summit organized by the Department of Tourism (DOT).
Speaking before some 350 attendees from the national government agencies, local government units (LGUs), associations and organizations from the tourism sectors who filled the venue hall of the Sheraton Manila Bay, Secretary Frasco presented the salient points of the NTDP 2023-2028, a draft of which was first previewed during the Tourism Coordinating Council (TCC) meeting that the tourism chief convened last month.
“This NTDP will serve as a blueprint for the strategies on how the Department of Tourism intends to continue and to grow the impact of tourism upon our economy in the next few years. This will be the guidebook of the industry where we put in place mechanisms for sustainability for many many years to come,” Secretary Frasco said.
Aside from sustainability, the NTDP will also serve as the guide towards a tourism industry that is innovative, inclusive, and globally competitive, according to Frasco.
“Under the leadership of President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. we have been called upon to transform the Philippine [tourism industry] into a tourism powerhouse in Asia. With your partnership, collaboration, and your unwavering support, I can say that we have begun the work of transforming the industry and giving the Philippines a more significant role in the ASEAN and in the world,” she added.
Transforming the Philippines into a tourism powerhouse
Heeding the President’s call and under the NTDP 2023-2028, the DOT shall endeavor to “Establish a Philippine tourism industry anchored on Filipino culture, heritage, and identity, which aims to be sustainable, resilient, and competitive in order to transform the Philippines into a tourism powerhouse in Asia.”
The Plan formalizes the specific strategies to be pursued under the main objectives and strategies that were earlier laid out by the DOT under the leadership of Frasco, and anchors on the strategic values of Philippine Identity, Sustainability, Resilience, and Global Competitiveness.
To recall, Secretary Frasco early into her assumption of office and upon close consultation and coordination with tourism stakeholders identified the following seven main objectives of the NTDP: 1. Improvement of Tourism Infrastructure and Accessibility; 2. Cohesive and Comprehensive Digitalization and Connectivity; 3. Enhancement of the Overall Tourist Experience; 4. Equalization of Tourism Product Development and Promotion; 5. Diversification of the Tourism Portfolio through Multidimensional Tourism; 6. Maximization of Domestic and International Tourism; and 7. Strengthening Tourism Governance through Close Collaborations with National and Local Stakeholders.
Positive trajectory for Philippine tourism
Frasco noted that, even prior to the finalization of the tourism blueprint for the next five years, the DOT has closely collaborated with tourism stakeholders in carrying out the President’s vision through its various plans and programs, citing the most recent international accolades and nominations received by the Philippines and its tourism destinations, as well as the positive tourism figures seen last year as a manifestation of the significant headway that the tourism industry obtained under the Marcos administration.
The tourism chief reported 2022 to be a fruitful year for the Philippine tourism industry, underscoring that last year’s international arrivals reached 2.65 million, exceeding the initial target of 1.7 million foreign visitors. This figure, she noted, translated to Php 214 billion or roughly US$ 4 Billion in estimated revenues, thereby boosting the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the post-pandemic era and exceeding the targeted revenue of Php155.03 billion by 38.06 percent.
High hopes maintained amid challenges
While she acknowledged some existing challenges including the country’s ranking in the World Economic Forum 2021 Travel and Tourism Development Index, which went down two places from its 2019 ranking, Secretary Frasco expressed the DOT’s determination and optimism on achieving the targets laid out in the NTDP 2023-2028, among which is the target of 4.8 million international arrivals and attainment of pre-pandemic (2019) domestic tourism levels this year.
“The momentum for recovery and growth has begun. We’ve eased restrictions. We’ve continued to aggressively promote our destinations through the DOT’s constant and unyielding presence in various exhibits in the Philippines and all over the world. And people are traveling now, and are traveling with a vengeance. By promoting the Philippines through the biggest international tourism and trade fairs across Asia and Europe, we are re-introducing the Philippines to the world, and bringing no less than the best of the best of the country and the Filipino people,” the tourism chief enthused.
“The Philippines already is a global destination upon the strength of our islands and beaches, our diving and biodiversity, and our hospitality as a people. Our future growth hinges on investments in meeting and conventions, health and wellness, lifestyle and entertainment, as well as domestic and international cruising. But most importantly, becoming a truly global destination demands that we provide an authentic Filipino experience for our visitors – creating distinctly Filipino experiences through our food and farms, our fashion and festivals, our arts and crafts, our traditions and practices, and the Filipino brand of service,” she added.
In closing her comprehensive presentation of the DOT’s plans and programs enclosed in the NTDP 2023-2028, Secretary Frasco once again enlisted the support of the stakeholders present.
“With your partnership, your collaboration, and your belief—your continued belief—in the strength of the tourism industry, we are confident that not only will we be able to accomplish the recovery for this much-battered industry, but more importantly, accomplish a true transformation of the tourism industry that will allow the Philippines to take a primary role in the ASEAN and the world as a tourism powerhouse in Asia, because the Filipino people deserve nothing less,” enthused Secretary Frasco, who noted the DOT’s readiness to roll out the completed NTDP 2023-2028 once President Marcos Jr. approves the Plan.
Stakeholders’ full show of support
Aside from officials of the DOT Central and Regional Offices, also present at the Tourism Stakeholders’ National Summit in a show of support to Philippine tourism are leaders and representatives from national and local government agencies, including the Department of Finance (DOF), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Senate Economic Planning Office, League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), Maritime Industry Authority – Philippines, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) – Ministry of Trade Investments and Tourism, and the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP).
Quirino Governor Dakila Carlo E. Cua, who serves as the President of the Union of Local Authorities in the Philippines (ULAP), extended the union’s support to the DOT “in its efforts to promote sustainable tourism practices and create a better future for the Filipino people”, and regarded the Summit as a “great platform to learn about the National Tourism Development Plan of the country and how local governments can and should contribute to the realization of this plan.”
“Local governments play a critical role in promoting and developing tourism. By leading government efforts, local governments can ensure that tourism is sustainable, benefits the local community and contributes to the economic development of the area. We need to promote tourism that is respectful of local culture and traditions, protects the environment, and supports the local economy. We must encourage travelers to engage in sustainable practices such as supporting local businesses and reducing their environmental impact,” said Cua.
Also at the event is House Committee on Tourism Chairperson Representative Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona, who also delivered a message of support to the DOT and the NTDP 2023-2028.
“The Department of Tourism has done, and is continuing to do a very commendable job in uplifting the country’s tourism industry side by side with its partners in government, the private sector representatives from the different industry groups and other tourism stakeholders,” he said.
“Today’s event speaks for itself. Sa totoo po, pagpasok ko kanina, nakita ko punong-puno itong ating venue. That means to say marami po talaga ang nakiki-isa sa ating drive to develop tourism. The holding of this National Summit is a testimony to the fact that the DOT is not resting on its laurels, and we would like to assure you that the outputs, ideas, and recommendations in the National Tourism Development Plan will be used by the House of Representatives as the perfect springboard in generating tourism legislations which are far deeper and productive to the industry,” he added.
Madrona further announced that the House Committee on Tourism has filed a resolution to commend the DOT under the leadership of Secretary Frasco “for its exemplary performance in ushering the resurgence of the Philippine tourism industry.” He also noted that since the beginning of this Congress, over 100 tourism-related bills have been passed on third reading. Furthermore, the Representative shared that the Congress is also currently reviewing the Republic Act (RA) Tourism Act of 2009 to give the DOT ample power “to be on top of the funding for tourism industries.”
“We have already felt that DOT as it is currently chartered, needs more teeth for us to be able to really affect our [visions of tourism] industry in our places,” Madrona said.
Also represented at the Summit are various tourism groups, including Council of Hotel and Restaurant Educators of the Philippines, Heritage Conservation Society, Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) International Inc., National Association of Independent Travel Agencies, Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA), and UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, among others.