(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2013
Placing 82nd among 140 countries is nothing to crow about. But policy reforms that led to an improvement of 12 notches from the previous year’s ranking made the World Economic Forum consider the Philippines a regional “rising star” in terms of competitiveness in travel and tourism.
In the Asia and Pacific region, the Philippines showed the greatest improvement, mostly on policies supporting the industry, the WEF noted in its Travel and Tourism Competitiveness 2013 report released the other day. The Philippines ranked 16th in the Asia-Pacific, with its spending on the sector as a percentage of GDP now the highest in the world, according to the WEF.
Among the Philippines’ strengths, as noted by the WEF, are its natural resources, price competitiveness, and strong priority given to travel and tourism. The “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” marketing campaign was also considered effective. The WEF cited greater openness to foreign investments in the travel and tourism sector, relaxation of visa requirements for visitors, and better protection of property rights.
The country can give itself a pat on the back, but the Philippines still has a lot of catching up to do with its neighbors and the rest of the world in terms of travel and tourism. Considering the country’s many natural blessings, being ranked in the lower half of the WEF list is still disappointing. Panama, the other “rising star” in the WEF report, is at 37th place – up from 56th.
Last year the Philippines recorded 4.273 million foreign tourist arrivals – 9.07 percent higher than in 2011, but still way below the numbers in other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
The WEF report identifies the continuing challenges to Philippine travel and tourism. These include the difficulty of setting up business, safety and security concerns, inadequate health and hygiene, as well as underdeveloped ground transport facilities and communication infrastructure. Industry players have called the attention of the government to these and other concerns. The improvement in the country’s ranking in the WEF report should encourage the government to continue on its reform path and intensify efforts to address the challenges.
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