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Carmela Cruz Asian Hotels & Catering Times Hong Kong

1. What is the thrust of Philippine tourism under your leadership? The Department of Tourism (DOT) and its attached agencies will work earnestly with the travel trade to make the Philippines as one of the preferred destinations in the Southeast Asian region within six years. We shall do our best to make the Philippines more accessible with the provision of much needed tourism infrastructure like better airports, seaports, roads, bridges and terminals for multi-modal connections. There is a need for increasing capacities through air liberalization to airlines for better competition in price & quality of service. For the first time in the history of Philippine tourism since its institutionalization in the 1950s, we shall develop the cruising industry along our more than 7,100 tropical islands. The Philippines is the second largest archipelago in the world. With the passing of the Tourism Act of 2009 which strengthened the DOT and reorganizes some of our attached agencies, tourism enterprise zones will be also be developed with more facilities, better products & services. There will be attractive incentives & less outlay for development. More public-private partnerships will be encouraged in infrastructure projects. Product development & enhancement will be vigorously undertaken with the private sector and local government units by focusing on products and services which are unique to their own areas. In this way, both domestic and foreign visitors will have more places and better things to do; more reasons to stay longer in the country. Corollary to this, local government units (LGUs) throughout the country will be encouraged to adhere, to comply with international standards of services related to destination management. The Department of Tourism (DOT) will synergize this vision with LGUs through training and development in master planning, tour guiding, research and statistics, accreditation standards, among others. As part of our holistic approach to sustainable, responsible and ethical tourism development in the country, the propagation of a culture of tourism will be implemented to increase awareness, appreciation and participation through advocacy programs in collaboration with the tourism councils and industry associations nationwide. Community development and entrepreneurship will likewise be undertaken programs to empower local people in host communities as direct beneficiaries of tourism business. A new brand for the Philippines will be created which will infuse research-based branding including the production of collaterals with unified look for all regions. New media promotions will be designed and executed with digital communications & e-commerce for real time access to information.

Green tourism will definitely be an umbrella guidepost for Philippine travel and tourism, specifically for accommodation and transportation facilities as well as for public recreational areas like beaches, highlands, parks, among others. Better incentives for new & rehabilitation initiatives using green technology will be given. Of course, safety and security measures will be strengthened in the tightest consideration by strong linkages with LGUs and securityrelated agencies of government and private sector for general safety and security of both local residents & foreign visitors as well as for crisis preparedness. 2. Do you think the hostage-taking that resulted in the deaths of Hong Kong tourists will dramatically affect tourist inflows? Yes. That most unfortunate incident has already affected visitorarrivals substantially from China and Hong Kong SAR with cancellations numbering to about half a million foreign visitors to the Philippines. Right now, we are further strengthening our linkages with other government agencies and private companies concerned on safety and security. We have also enhanced our own tourism staffs inputs on crisis communication and related matters. Our marketing people in the regions and overseas have been most helpful in assuring international travel trade and potential visitors that everything is normal in the country and its business as usual. This interview, by the way, is a way of conveying my own and the Filipino peoples deepest sympathy to the victims loved ones and sincerest condolences to all Hong Kongers and the Chinese people for that August 23 tragedy. An isolated case, but a tragedy, nonetheless, that we truly hope and pray will never happen again. 3. The DOT has given a target of 3.3 million visitors for short-term projection and about 6 million for the long term. Has this changed? No. Despite decreases resulting from the August 23 tragedy, we hope to maintain our visitor-arrival targets in 2010 to reach 3.3 million for a growth rate of 10%. As of July 2010, visitor arrivals to the country have reached 2.039 million for a 14% increase. By 2016, we are targeting 6 million visitor-arrivals with an annual average growth rate of 10%. 4. Last year, the Tourism Act of 2009 was passed. Do you see it getting implemented any time soon? What are the stumbling blocks to its implementation? The DOT and its attached agencies are gearing toward the smooth transition of its current structure and mandate as provided in Republic Act 9593.

We hope to begin with the initial phases of the transition by early 2011 by addressing some issues raised on the Implementing Rules and Regulations issues by the DOT in 2009.

Among the priority activities that will be implemented by DOT in 2011 pursuant to RA 9593 include: completion of the new National Tourism Development Plan, which will replace the 20-year Philippine Master Master Plan; mandatory accreditation of primary tourism enterprises; and designation of Tourism Enterprise Zones.

5. Over in 2009, the Philippines hotel occupancy rate was 8%, average daily rate was 6.3% and revenue per available room was 14.9%. Do you see these figures improving? How? As the number of inbound and domestic tourist in the country continue to increase during the year and in the future, we see greater opportunities for the accommodation sector to improve their margins or profit over time. In selected destinations of Central Philippines, additional 3,138 rooms are expected to open in 2010. This will increase the current room supply by 8% to 42,216 rooms. Most of these rooms will be in resorts and hotels located in Cebu, Palawan and Boracay. Government and travel trade efforts to encourage more domestic travel such as during long holidays and the local airlines promotional fares are motivations for expats and local residents to travel more throughout the Philippines.