Jimenez: Tourism industry to create 20% of all jobs
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. yesterday challenged the private sector to invest in tourism enterprises, saying the benefits are not just profit but a ripple effect of creating jobs.
“We do this so well,” he said, citing the hospitality of Filipinos and natural attractions in 7,100 islands, that make it “more fun in the Philippines.”
He said tourism will eventually account for “20 percent of all employment” as the industry was identified by the Aquino government as one of three “sustainable growth engines” to be given priority support, aside from business process outsourcing, and agriculture.
Jimenez was one of several panelists in the forum “Are we ready for inclusive growth?”, during the 25th anniversary and annual membership meeting of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) in the Visayas held in Marco Polo Plaza.
He said President Aquino and he agreed from the start that “successful tourism is not about counting the number of Korean tourists who come out of an airplane. It is about counting the number of jobs and business opportunities we are able to create as a result of those arrivals.”
Another panelist, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras said that “tourism is ideal in most places which helps generate more jobs for those geographically and demographically at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”
A P12 billion budget is being recommended by the Aquino administration for tourism infrastructure alone, he said.
Amarela Resort in Panglao, Bohol province was cited as an example of how tourism makes an impact on the low income segment or the bottom of the pyramid.
Resort president Lucas Nunag, a panelist, described how their 25-room resort in a 1.5 hectare property started with less than 20 people in 2006.
“Now we have 54 employees who are very diverse in terms of educational attainment. We have people who have not even finished high school working with us, we have graduates of courses like nursing and we also hire people in the community for on-call jobs,” said Nunag.
“I’m sure ours is not an isolated case,” he said.
Jimenez, meanwhile, said the “opportunities are tremendous” for tourism as the country faces a shortage of 37,000 hotel rooms by 2016.
“I talked to Singaporean investor once and asked him why are you investing in the Philippines and he told me that the question is almost silly. He said everybody knows that 47 percent of the hospitality industry in Singapore is run by Filipinos ‘I’m just going back to the source’ he told me,” said Jimenez.
He said domestic tourism, which is growing fast, is the “bedrock” of all successful touristic countries.
By 2016, the average expenditure of a traveler in the Philippines would be over P6,500 a day or potential revenue of 2 trillion pesos for the country.
The tourism secretary said one don’t invest in a Filipino because he is poor but because he is good at what he does.
The “More Fun in the Philippines” campaign has ignited global attention, he said, propelled by Filipinos themselves who have come up with 75,000 versions of the popular slogan.
“My message to the private sector is this: Your people have actually done their job and proven themselves over and over again in every country of the world that the Philippines is worth a visit. And now we are facing a 37,000-room shortage by 2016.”
He said that in February, tourism traffic breached the 400,000 mark with 418,000 arrivals which is 15 percent growth from the same period last year.
With this trend, the DOT increased its target for domestic travelers to 56.1 million by 2016 from an original goal of 35.5 million.
The Philippines already logged 40 million domestic travels last year according to Jimenez.
He attributed the activities of low cost carriers for this surge in domestic activity as 98 percent of the 40 million tourists arrive by plane.
“By 2016 we will need 37,000 more rooms and raise tourism revenues to P6,500 per day. We are projecting at least P2 trillion in revenues from tourism now and we expect that to grow further.”
In 2011, travel and tourism contributed 3,547,500 employment in the country which includes jobs generated from investment and in the supply chain or 9.6 percent of total employment.
Jimenez said they expect employment from tourism to reach 20 percent of total employment in the country in the near future.
“The hardest part is to release that demand and that is why we are working to create more connectivity and seamless travel to all the 7,100 islands in the country through more investments in infrastructure,” said Jimenez.
This year, Jimenez said that the government has set aside a P12 billion budget for tourism infrastructure projects that they have identified since 2011.
“A huge part of that will be invested here in the Visayas which we based on the projects that we together with the private sector have identified. What we are doing now is also identifying projects that will be implemented next year,” said Jimenez.
Aside from tourism, agriculture and rural investments are also identified by the government as sustainable growth engines according to Secretary Almendras.
“The main agenda of government is generating more jobs at the bottom of the geographic and demographic pyramid that is why we are urging private sectors to do business in these areas. All you have to do is a change of business model and be willing to learn about the business at the base of the pyramid,” said Almendras.
Two ways to create jobs is through public investments in infrastructure and private investments especially in the rural areas.
According to Almendras, because of the governments Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) program, at least P40 billion is circulating in rural areas because majority of the 3.8 million Filipinos qualified for the CCT are in rural areas.
“We are inviting you to join us in the geographic base of our economy. There are many areas for investment in there (rural areas) and we assure you that the government will continue to invest in projects at the base like farm-to-market road networks for agriculture that will help your investments grow,” said Almendras.
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