Look beyond ‘open skies’ for ways to attract more tourists
I agree with former tourism undersecretary Oscar Palabyab that no amount of open skies policy will make tourists come unless we have the right marketing and promotion programs and the needed tourism infrastructure and facilities, and we develop a visitor-friendly image for our country.
He was right in saying that foreign airlines look for business and are not motivated by sheer love for the Philippines, thus they will come in only if there is a market.
When tourists plan a vacation, they do not look at the number of airline seats available but at the attractions and tourist facilities, the overall image of the destination, and whether it is safe to travel around.
I also concur with him that the Philippine government should not ignore our own airlines since they are one of the biggest investors in tourism. If we lose them, our tourism will also suffer. Our local airlines are the ones developing our tourist market and promoting the Philippines to foreigners, not the foreign airlines, which are just interested in flying passengers to and from their hubs.
One of the reasons why foreign airlines are interested in operating in the Philippines is the huge number of Filipino travelers, including overseas Filipino workers, returning balikbayans, and vacationing families. What they are primarily after is our outbound market.
I agree that the pocket open skies policy being implemented by the government in airports outside Metro Manila will not attract foreign airlines until provincial airport terminals get adequate infrastructure and facilities to accommodate bigger and newer jets.
I also understand Palabyab’s lament about the continued inactivity of the Tourism Congress (the private sector consultative body mandated to help government in the development and implementation of tourism plans and policies) because of Tourism Secretary Alberto’s Lim refusal to recognize it.
As a result, it is the tourism secretary himself who is doing the marketing and promotion of the Philippines in his frequent travels abroad, which should not be the case. The Department of Tourism should really make the law work to ensure that the infrastructure support mechanisms envisioned under the Tourism Act, including stronger private sector participation in the formulation and implementation of plans and programs, are in place and working.
—MURIEL B. BANAGA,
MC 27, Unit 401
Diego Silang Village
Ususan, Pasig City
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