How the Philippines’ tourism industry is changing in 2023


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There is no arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the tourism industry in a major way, forcing the sector to shift focus to new and innovative ways to promote tourism and facilitate travel.

Recovery Strategies for 2023

One of the big tourism catalysts of the year is the E-arrival pass, seamlessly integrating the information required by five government agencies into a single platform.

“It makes travel as convenient as possible for any Filipino or tourist coming into the country by removing any barriers that would otherwise dissuade tourists from coming into the Philippines,” Department Of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said.

Tourist Rest Areas are another exciting project launched recently. These one-stop centers will provide restrooms, coffee shops, Pasalubong and souvenir Stores, Tourist Information areas, and a Charging Station.

“The tourist rest area was conceptualized in fulfillment of one of our objectives in the Department of Tourism to ensure that we equalize tourism promotion and development not only in the key destinations within the country but also to lesser known areas that have great potential for tourism development. It is our President’s desire to spread economic opportunity and livelihood all over the Philippines especially and including Mindanao,” Frasco explained.

All of this has created a solid foundation for the tourism sector to continue its upward trajectory, becoming one of the most competitive markets in Asia once more.

“Aside from diversifying our products in arts and film tourism, we are also developing the country’s existing tourism products including dive and marine sports tourism, education, health, and cruise tourism, food, and gastronomy tourism, culture and heritage tourism, MICE tourism and halal tourism,” said Frasco.

The “Bisita (Visitor) Be My Guest” program is another ambitious idea launched by the department late in 2022.

The initiative incentivizes Filipinos, especially those living abroad, to be ambassadors for the country and bring friends to visit the country.

They will win prizes and receive discounts through the app’s privilege card.

Domestic tourism is also getting a big boost thanks to President, Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr’s decree that public holidays that fall on a weekend would be moved to a Monday.

Frasco noted that this was a huge help to the industry and added that “it also stoked a lot of interest and excitement among fellow Filipinos in terms of booking their trips for 2023.”

At the end of the year, DOT signed into a partnership with the Department of Information and Communication Technology to improve the experience tourists have when visiting Tourism Centers across the country.

More than 94 locations will benefit from the proposed developments which include improved internet connectivity and more digitized tourism experiences.

Recovering Figures

The Philippines is one of the tourism-dependent economies that was struck the hardest, bringing its 13% GDP contribution to its knees.

In 2021, the Philippines had its worst year for inbound tourists in decades, reporting even lower figures than in 2020.

The government launched the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign, promoting domestic travel, and saw great returns as there was a 39% increase over that same time.

But things are looking up and the Philippines is looking to double its tourism figures from 2022 which was already much better than some 160,000 visitors in the previous year.

The Department of Tourism noted that they welcomed around 2.46 million visitors in 2022 but that they would be aiming to reach around 4.8 million arrivals in 2023.

Secretary Frasco explained that they are cautiously optimistic despite external factors like Chinese lockdowns, the war in Ukraine, and rising fuel costs.

“We look at it with optimism in a sense that our goal is to exceed our conservative projections in the same way that we have been able to exceed it this year,” she said.

“And we feel that we would be able to exceed our pre-pandemic numbers way earlier than the 2025 year that was told to us when we assumed office with the improved policies under the Marcos administration,” Frasco added.

New Markets

The largest number of foreign tourists came from China and South Korea but due to their stricks border control measures, those tourists all but disappeared.

The Filipino government has announced a new strategy to now target Middle-Eastern tourists in the hope of reaching their desired visitors count.

“We won’t just focus on continuing to promote halal tourism among halal tourism-accredited establishments in Mindanao, but will be expanding accreditation to establishments across the Philippines,” Frasco explained.

Saudi Arabians were the top arrival from the Middle East but still only ranked 23rd in overall arrivals, a position DOT is looking to drastically increase.

“We are very conscious of developing opportunity markets where this type of tourism may be attractive and that includes Malaysia, Indonesia, (and) our friends in the Middle East,” she added.