Tourism is acknowledged as “a key driver of socio-economic progress through export revenues, the creation of jobs and enterprises, and infrastructure development.” It ranks fourth in global exports next to fuels, chemicals, and food. Records show that the multiplier effect of tourism on local economies in the form of payment for goods and services needed by tourists, account for 30% of the world’s trade of services, and 6% of overall exports of goods and services. Tourism also creates opportunities for employment in the service sector.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in its Tourism Highlights, 2014 Edition reported that tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world and has experienced continued expansion and diversification over the past six decades.
The tourism industry continues to rise above the challenges wrought by climate change and regional conflicts. UNWTO records show that international tourist arrivals have grown from 25 million in 1950 to 278 million in 1980, 528 million in 1995, and 1,087,000,000 in 2013. It topped the 1 billion mark in 2012. Global tourism receipts in 2013 was US$ 1,159 billion up from the previous US$ 1,078 billion.
The growth in international tourist arrivals is expected to grow by 3.3% a year from 2010 to 2030 to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, according to UNWTO’s long term forecast Tourism Towards 2030. Asia and the Pacific recorded the strongest growth with a 6.2 % increase in arrivals, higher than the global average of 5%. Note, however, that Southeast Asia outgrew the region with 10.5% growth.
It is in this context that the Philippines is fortunate – to be located in a region with the most potential for tourism to contribute to a nation’s development. As more and more people visit our part of the world because of the ease of cross border travel, budget fares, higher disposable income in most countries, and the increasing propensity to travel abroad as propelled by social media and the online convenience of booking … competition among Southeast Asian countries to grab a greater share of that tourism pie becomes more intense.
The Philippines has a lot of catching up to do compared to half of its ASEAN neighbors. But, we are confident of facing the challenges together with our Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, and our most tourism-friendly President in decades, Benigno S. Aquino, behind us. As a consequence of this valued guidance and support, our marketing efforts are considerably more efficient considering the limited resources devoted to tourism marketing and promotions. We seem to achieve more for every dollar we spend.
However, the challenge to outperform other countries in substantially attracting more visitors despite our meager resources remains.