Development through Tourism

Manila Bulletin, January 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

Development through Tourism


There is no question that an industry that can significantly contribute to economic growth and employment generation is tourism. The Philippines has lagged behind its Southeast Asian neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia (and now even Vietnam) in attracting foreign tourists because of our very poor infrastructures in the countryside, where most of our tourism sites are. As a case in point, even one of our most popular tourism destinations--Boracay--is quite difficult to reach. Fortunately, in the last five years there have been some major improvements in infrastructures, such as the Northern Luzon Expressway and the Philippine Nautical Highway. In a short while, the Southern Luzon Expressway will also be much improved. Also a cause for celebration are brand new airports in such places as Bacolod, Iloilo. Davao, and hopefully soon the Laguindingan Airport between Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. From the pronouncements of the leading presidential candidates, countryside infrastructure will be on top of the agenda of the next Government, continuing what the present Administration has begun.Considering, however, the slow recovery that is expected in the countries of origin of our top foreign tourists (the U.S. and Japan), we cannot expect a high growth in foreign tourism in the immediate future. Only South Korea may show a larger increase in tourists to the Philippines. Europe, too, will take some time in recovering. For this reason, we should focus much of our attention on domestic tourism and in convincing the balikbayans to take their families to places in the Philippines outside their respective residences. Our travel agencies should promote a Know Your Country program to the returning OFWs during the Christmas Season and beyond. The experience of Cebu, for example, during 2009 when there was a noticeable drop in foreign tourists highlighted the importance of domestic tourism. The absence of foreign tourists was hardly noticed because there were many Filipino families traveling to Cebu and surrounding destinations like Bohol and Dumaguete.It may actually be a blessing in disguise that traveling Filipino families are still predominant in our tourism industry. They set a high moral standard, minimizing the proliferation of sex tourism and beaches with scantily dressed foreigners, which have become a blight in numerous European beaches along the Mediterranean. In fact, European families with young children avoid going to the beaches during the summer because of the scandalous way the tourists dress (or undress). These families prefer to go to the mountains. During the summers I spent recently in Spain, I met many of these families in the ski resorts of the Pyrenees which are converted to family lodges in the months of June to September.In this regard, Pope Benedict XVI in his recent encyclical Charity in Truth referred to international tourism, which can be a major factor in economic development and cultural growth, but can also become an occasion for exploitation and moral degradation. The Pope assesses both the positive and negative aspects of international tourism: 'The current situation offers unique opportunities for the economic aspects of development--that is to say the flow of money and the emergence of a significant amount of local enterprise--to be combined with cultural aspects, chief among which is education. In many cases this is what happens, but in other cases international tourism has a negative educational impact both for the tourist and the local populace. …

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