Davao LGUs urged to compete in tourism trade

beachfrontLOCAL government units (LGUs) and all other stakeholders in the private sector involved in tourism should synchronize and integrate their tourism plans at the regional level to better market their localities.
This was the strong advice of national tourism officials to more than 400 government officials and players in the tourism industry gathered at the biggest tourism congress here last Friday.
Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab of the Department of Tourism also stressed the futility of LGUs prematurely selling tourist destinations without first fully developing them, including providing all the needed amenities for tourists.
“What is needed in Davao is really to organize things in a business-like manner, to package tours, offer special tours. We have to be organized because there’s no doubt, each town, each province has its own attraction, but unless they are organized regionwide, we can not market the region,” said Department of Tourism undersecretary Phineas Alburo during the tourism industry-related Congress (Tricon) held last Friday at the Grand Regal Hotel, Davao City.
The DOT officials warned the LGUs and the private sector against promoting tourist destinations which have not been fully developed “as it is counterproductive to sell tourist destinations unless they are provided with the needed amenities.”
As an example, Usec Palabyab said it is pointless to promote an amazing tribal village if tourists will still have to hike for five hours to the place because the LGU had failed to build a road.
Usec Alburo also bared that the DOT has funds to help develop small scale tourism ventures, saying that the money is an outright grant, not a loan to be repaid.
“There is a lot of expectations from government. They’re asking what the national government can do for them. Many of them should really be local initiatives, before the national government will come in. Still, there are valid complaints in terms of how to put more life in the tourism industry of the nation,” he said.
Also present at the tourism congress was Davao del Norte Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario.

More players
Palabyab said the high turnout of participants at the congress “indicates that there many new players in the industry.”
“I notice that a lot more people are attending the gathering. Tourism council assemblies are a regular thing, but this is the first of its kind this year. This is our opportunity to share ideas among stakeholders, an opportunity for us to synchronize our activities,” he said.
“It is important for stakeholders to know that the department is moving. It is important for government to know what the stakeholders are thinking and doing so we will know whether our policies are correct,” he added.
Alburo said another indicator that local tourism industry remains vibrant amid the global economic turmoil is the fact that flights within the Philippines are always full while flights outside the Philippines are either half-full or half-empty.
“I noted that most flights in the Philippines are full, meaning to say that  that domestic travel is still going on and healthy, while international travel is not as brisk as before, maybe because of the high prices of plane tickets. Some travellers decided to go out only two times a year instead of three or five times a year,” he said.
“It could be that some travellers just confine their traveling within the region instead of to farway places like Europe and America,. It could be for many reasons but basically people in this generation will always travel, some two to three times a year. These days some people cut them to just two. People used to travel long haul, but many today limit heirs to short haul,” he added.

New tourism law
Meanwhile, local tourism players are expected to benefit much from the new tourism bill once President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signs it into law.
This was what Senator Richard Gordon, a former tourism secretary, told some 500 tourism stakeholders who attended the Tricon.
The bill features the establishment of tourism enterprise zones across the country. This alone is already expected to boost domestic tourism.
“With this law, local governments will now be pushed to develop their own tourism sites, come up with a package that would be attractive to potential tourists,” he said.
Gordon stressed that it is now the role of the LGUs to be more creative in having better tourism investments such that everything from hotel accommodation to products are all offered in a tourism site.
It is also the role of LGUs to develop their tourism enterprise zones as they would be competing with other cities and municipalities offering distinct sites and products.
Targets for the tourism enterprise zones include Cebu, Davao, Bohol, Laguna, Cavite, Boracay, Palawan, and Iloilo.
Undersecretary Palabyab said local tourist destinations must take advantage of cheaper air and sea transport fares being offered by various airlines and shipping companies.
“We observe that most domestic travelers have confined their travel within the region. Airlines have also opened flights to new areas like Laoag, Bosoanga, Zamboanga. This shows that there is a growing new market in local areas.” Palabyab said. [With PIA report]