MANILA, Philippines — The Selection of the Puerto Princesa Underground River in the list of the New 7 Wonders of Nature augurs well for Philippine tourism. It is expected to draw more foreign and domestic tourists to visit the site in Palawan.
The government is banking on tourism to be one of the economy’s key drivers in the next five years. Tourism revenue is one of the top five contributors to the national coffers, along with taxes, remittances of Filipinos working abroad, exports and foreign direct investments. Tourist arrivals for the first nine months of 2011 reached 2,887,715. The target is 3.7 million foreign visitors for the whole year.
The goal is to increase the number of tourists to 6.3 million international arrivals and over 32 million domestic travelers by 2016. Tourists are offered natural landscapes, underwater activities, shopping and bargain hunting, native cuisines, historical sites, beaches and resorts, rich culture and tradition of indigenous peoples, and rare flora and fauna. Our top tourist destinations today are Metro Manila, Camarines Sur, Cebu, Davao City, Cagayan Valley, Baguio, Boracay, Zambales, Puerto Princesa, Bohol, Negros Oriental, Camiguin Island, and Ilocos Norte. Our top sources of tourist visitors are South Korea, United States, Japan, China, and Australia.
The government is upgrading the country’s airports, seaports, roads, and other infrastructures. Public-private partnership is being tapped to modernize the international gateways such as the airports in Laoag City, Clark, Subic, as well as Puerto Princesa, Cebu-Mactan and Panglao, and build new facilities in Mindanao. The rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport will start in January, 2012.
Filipinos are urged to help the Department of Tourism (DoT) project a good image of the country. “Every Filipino must be an agent of tourism,’’ DoT says as it puts together a new campaign to boost the country’s image. Investment incentives will be offered for local government units (LGUs) which are responsible for safety and security of visitors. Within the next five years, the government and private sector will be working toward a unified tourism industry.