BUSINESS and SOCIETY; RP Targets Asian Tourists

Article excerpt

Byline: Bernardo Villegas

Ilocos Norte demonstrates what the whole Philippines can be in the next ten years: A major destination for Asian tourists, especially those coming from mainland China. Today, there are direct flights from key cities in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to Laoag, which is literally teeming with Chinese and other Northeast Asian tourists. Tomorrow, these direct flights could be to any international airport in the Philippines, with fares at rock-bottom levels.

A recent report on The Future of Tourism in Asia/Pacific was issued by MasterCard International. A good friend, Dr. Yuwa HedrickWong, heads the MasterIntelligence Knowledge Panel that conducted the research for this most valuable report that can help both business and government in formulating a long-term plan for the Philippine tourism industry. For the benefit first of those regions closest to Northeast Asia (such as Ilocos Norte, Cagayan and Batanes) and for the rest of the Philippines, I will summarize portion of the MasterCard Report. It starts with an estimate of world tourism: "According to estimates made by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the industry today employs about 221 million people worldwide, with total spending in personal travel estimated at about US$2.8 trillion in 2005, or 10% of total personal consumption of the worldas consumers. It is expected that the worldwide personal travel spending would reach US$4.6 trillion, or 11% of the worldas personal consumption, by 2015. This implies an annual growth rate of 5.1%. Spending in business travel is equally impressive. Total spending in 2005 is estimated at US$653 billion, rising to US$963 billion in 2015; an average annual rate of growth of 4%.

"This is a huge industry however one wants to look at it. It is also very multi-faceted, involving a wide range of industries from hotels and restaurants, to airlines, to ground transportation, to cruise ships; let alone retail, marketing and advertising. Contrary to the stereotypes, the travel and tourism industry creates both labor intensive and knowledge intensive employment for millions. When managed correctly, the industry can also become a key driver in preserving the environment, and for protecting cultural and historical heritage and artifacts. It has the added benefit of simultaneously boosting domestic consumption (from the point of view of the originating countries) as well as boosting service exports (from the point of view of the destination countries). It is set to become a key component in global economic growth and prosperity in the 21st century."

These comments should silence those who equate tourism with such negative side effects as prostitution, environmental degradation and cultural contamination. Tourism, if properly managed, can be family-oriented, environment-friendly and culturally enriching for both hosts and visitors, and intellectually challenging to Filipino workers.

The Report has some very useful tips about tourists coming from China. Scrutinizing their behavior in Hong Kong, the Report can help us plan our own marketing program for Chinese tourists: "Hong Kong has benefited hugely in recent years from tourist arrivals from the mainland of China. Contrary to expectation, Chinese tourists have proved to be serious spenders, and, more importantly, they generate much higher economic impact due to their spending patterns. …