Tourism stakeholders and practitioners can now breathe a long sigh of relief as the Duterte administration has earmarked PhP677 billion for tourism related projects in the Medium Term Plan, thus ensuring that the long-delayed tourism infrastructures and upgrading of services and projects may finally see fruition.
While the tourism outlook remains optimistic despite the disturbing peace and order situation caused by the conflict in Marawi City, as well as the unabated killings of drug suspects, the tourism pie has nevertheless increased.
According to Rita Jimenez, Tourism Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation, funding will focus on large-scale infrastructure such as an intensified land-based transportation system, which will pave the way for accessibility and easy movement of local and foreign visitors throughout the country.
“A total of PhP184.5 billion will be earmarked for tourism roads and highways for the next five years, in cooperation with the Department of Public Works and Highways,” she declared during the Cebu Tourism Summit held at the Cebu City Marriott Hotel.
Jimenez also mentioned that ports would be upgraded in preparation for the cruise ship market. Tourism Enterprise Zones (TEZ) and railways are also in the pipeline, intended to encourage more investments and mobility of visitors.
The undersecretary added that the Department of Tourism would be targeting 160,000 airline seats this year for maximum visitor arrivals. The private sector is encouraged to invest more in the transportation and accommodations sector to close the gap in room requirements.
Outside Manila, Cebu has accomplished more than its share by way of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Present statistics confirm that the airport now hosts 21 local and foreign carriers that ply 29 domestic routes and 18 foreign destinations.
“The icing on the cake would be the new immigration policies and procedures such as visa upon arrival and seamless visa applications,” Jimenez said. “These would go a long way in easing visitor restrictions and encourage more tourist movement.”
The Bureau of Immigration has often been the target of complaints from many disgruntled foreigners due to alleged unreasonable policies and dubious personnel behavior.
With the upcoming new immigration policies, it is hoped that more foreigners would be convinced to stay longer in the country and encourage their fellowmen to visit as well.
BY RICHARD RAMOS