MANILA: The Philippine Department of Tourism has vowed to break the 2018 record for the number of foreign tourists visiting the country.
The Philippines welcomed 7,127,168 foreign visitors last year, and the department said it is aiming for 8.2 million this year.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said the target is achievable because last year’s milestone occurred despite the closure of the country’s flagship destination and the department’s change of leadership.
“In creating a culture of sustainable tourism, we have had some challenges in instilling a paradigm shift in our popular spots where unsustainable practices have become the normal, day-to-day operations,” she told Arab News.
“But thankfully,” the rehabilitation of Boracay island “started a national movement to be more conscious of our environment,” she said.
This has inspired and empowered local communities to make their respective destinations cleaner and more sustainable, while the government focuses on preserving the biodiversity and capacity of tourist attractions, Puyat added. “This always equates to a better experience for our tourists,” she said.
Asked how the Department of Tourism plans to sustain growth, Puyat said: “We will go heavy in our marketing and promotions to sustain the growth of our key markets, while increasing awareness about our country’s beautiful destinations in emerging markets.”
This year, the department is hosting two major aviation events, Routes Asia and CAPA Asia Aviation, to explore new routes and development opportunities for smoother and faster travel to and from the country.
This, Puyat said, is part of efforts to boost the Philippines’ bid to become an Asian aviation hub.
These upcoming events will showcase the newly developed Mactan-Cebu International Airport, and will bolster the country’s international networks and local tourism, she added. “It’s all systems go for these two major aviation events,” she said.
Through both events, the Philippine aviation industry looks forward to further capacity and infrastructure enhancements in the coming years, added Puyat.
Earlier this year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources led government efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay, similar to what was done in Boracay.
Manila Bay is known for its world-famous sunsets, but over the years it has become one of Asia’s most polluted bays. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu described it as a “magnified cesspool.”
To restore the bay’s pristine condition, the government in January launched a massive cleanup operation.
Asked if the rehabilitation will help attract more visitors, Puyat said: “In fact it already is.” She added: “For the longest time, the bay’s beach area was filled with garbage. Now you can find quite a number of tourists.”