International tourism is expected to rebound in the coming years to pre-pandemic levels as the country ramps up environmental sustainability efforts on key tourist destinations.
Roberto Alabado III, Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said they target the number of tourists going back to pre-pandemic levels by 2024 and 2025.
The Philippines recorded over 8 million foreign tourists during the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
“Tourism will eventually learn to adapt to the current pandemic. Tourist behavior generally will change due to the current pandemic –more outdoor, smaller groups, health-conscious,” he said in a webinar.
To cater to tourists, Alabado said it is important to focus on the issues on environmental sustainability, including the need for more environmental action on key tourist spots, wastewater systems, and solid waste systems.
“Investments (are) needed to protect the natural resources for tourism purposes,” he said.
Alabado also underscored the need to improve the world’s information about the country.
“There is still a lack of knowledge about the Philippines in general,” he said. “Digitalization of the Philippine tourism industry will rapidly change how tourism is done.”
Alabado said connectivity to destinations likewise is a must, thus the importance of having airports, roads, cruise ports, and seaports.
“So for the past few years, with the ‘Build, Build, Build’ (infrastructure) program, this administration, we have to develop more or improve our airports so that people can now visit small islands at the same time cruise ports are being developed,” he said.
“This would really help a lot because cruise tourism pre-pandemic, (the) Philippines was starting in Southeast because we were like a greenfield for them. A lot of islands (are) still yet to be discovered, cruise ships were excited to explore the Philippines and we are looking at it in the next decade, a lot of them will come back here in the Philippines,” he added.
Alabado further said the country will also work on improving tourism services and human resource development, particularly upskilling and reskilling of tourism industry players.
“And I think that for the next decade, there will be a lot of services and infrastructure, it would be needed for us to further improve our tourism industry. However, we can see that this present administration has started the push for better facilities, roads, bridges, everything, and we will be needing a lot of investment on such,” he said.
Alabado said the DOT is looking forward to investments on the accommodation, health, transportation and infrastructure which are all geared towards its sustainable tourism drive.