Good news: Tourism is delivering

By: John Carlo Tria

IT IS CLEAR to many that a new age of tourism is upon us.

With a record 7.1 million tourists visiting us in 2018, the crowd of Korean, Chinese and Japanese tourists filling our tourist spots bodes well for an economy that will need more revenue to fuel and expand our economy as it faces headwinds from an international trade war that threatens to cut global growth with no end in sight.

This year alone, 4.1 million foreign tourists have already visited the country, allowing us to head for another record year by the end of 2019. This first half of 2019 already gave almost 245 billion pesos in receipts, up almost 18% from the same period last year. Last year, tourism already eclipsed Business Process Outsourcing and OFW income as a share of our total GDP, rising to about 12%. Strictly speaking, this number still does not include the share of local tourism, though it may be reasonable to assume that hotels and restaurants cater to both local and foreign tourists.

It looks like the share of tourism may go up even further if new destinations can be tapped.

Yet the more important reason why tourism is a low hanging fruit stems from the fact that workers in this sector do not need as many skills as manufacturing. It is easy to hire and train service workers and upgrade skills. This lowers the barrier of entry and allows many unskilled local residents to obtain gainful employment. Many remote areas have wonderful sights and offerings that simply need to be tapped as new destinations. Beaches, adventure sights need to be developed further. Protecting them against pollution and damage is our duty, given the income they bring.

New areas for tourism include agriculture and heritage tourism.

To illustrate, a good number of Americans visiting the country are of Filipino heritage, and would like to see firsthand the kind of life their ancestors had in a country that as once an American colony.

Apart from the beaches and the nightlife, agricultural tourism enterprises like Eden Nature Park, Bemwa and Malagos in Davao, the Bohol Bee Farm and Villa Escudero and San Benito in Quezon lead hundreds of similar new enterprises in many areas now catering to visitors that pay entrance fees and eat lunch, as well as buy souvenir items and farm products, generating additional revenue for growing and processing of food such as fresh fruit.

These are good revenue streams that can help farm enterprises fund their own agricultural enterprises.

The next time you go to the countryside for a weekend, do a farm tour. It is invigorating.

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