“THE Philippines is a beautiful country, and we intend to leverage on this strength to boost economic growth,” the Duterte administration stressed when it said that it intends to develop the tourism sector by drawing more than 12 million tourist arrivals by 2022, which is more than double the number recorded in 2015.
Based on the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2016-2022, an annual 10-percent growth rate in tourist arrivals will have to be met to reach this goal.
For this year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) aims to attract some 6.5 million in foreign visitor arrivals and 73.3 million domestic tourists. These targets are higher than 10 percent from the projected 5.9 million in foreign tourists, and up 4 percent from the 70.5 million in domestic tourists in 2016.
As if this task is not enough, the tourism sector must now maneuver through a series of challenges brought by tensions inside (the controversial war against illegal drugs) and outside (the continuing issuance of travel advisories by the U.S. and other countries) its coastal areas.
In April, during one of the busiest travel seasons in the country, the U.S. warned its citizens against traveling to the central Philippines after receiving information that a terrorist organization was planning to kidnap tourists there. The American embassy in Manila said that based on their Worldwide Caution, there was an ongoing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens in countries abroad, including the Philippines.
Earlier in May, the U.S. Embassy issued another travel advisory for their citizens who plan to visit the province of  Palawan following information that terrorist groups may be planning to conduct kidnapping operations targeting foreign nationals in the area.
On May 24, it issued another advisory when the Marawi City crisis broke out and the declaration of martial law throughout Mindanao was declared. In an emergency message, the U.S. Embassy warned citizens of the crisis and announced the temporary suspension of its personnel to missions throughout Mindanao.
On Friday, June 2, the embassy yet again posted another travel warning, this time in Manila following a robbery attempt at Resorts World Manila in Pasay City. The incident left at least 37 people dead, including the lone suspect.
DOT Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo admitted that travel advisories make it difficult to promote tourism, but she remains optimistic as she stresses that the government will intensify its campaign of “selling” the Philippines as a major tourist destination.
“We will double our efforts,” Teo vowed.
Teeming with natural resources, renowned cultural heritage, and the warmth and all-encompassing nature of its people, the country is still sure to attract and reward its visitors.
With the ongoing assertive and collaborative efforts of its travel sector and national government, increased patronage for its islands is not far behind. (AJPress)

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