By Azer N. Parrocha
MANILA, Feb. 14 (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday lauded the achievements of the tourism industry and at the same time aimed for a bigger goal: To permanently make the Philippines one of the world’s vacation hotspots.
The President was guest of honor during the 21st Travel Tour Expo at SMX Convention Center, Pasay City, where he expressed his full support to the tourism industry’s endeavors.
“Whenever I attend events such as this, I cannot help but remember a trip I took earlier on in my presidency to the Puerto Princesa Underground River,” President Aquino said.
He described his experience in the Underground River as “unforgettable” not only because of the wonders of the natural attraction but also because of the “very vibrant tour guide.”
The President said his experience served as a clear signal that it is through the efforts of all stakeholders — whether those in government, in the private sector, or in the local communities — that the tourism industry will continue, and perhaps even accelerate, its growth.
“Now, with the help of those present here, those working in the Department of Tourism (DOT), and the local communities, we are unleashing the potentials of Philippine tourism — showing the world that, truly, it is more fun in the Philippines,” President Aquino said.
He noted being on track of tourism targets and sometimes exceeding them — for instance, surpassing the initial target of 35.5 million domestic travelers five years ahead of schedule, with 37.5 million travelers in 2011 alone.
“This prompted us to pursue an even more ambitious target,” the President said. “Now, Secretary Mon Jimenez has the fun task of meeting, or better yet, surpassing our new 2016 target of just 56.1 million domestic travelers.”
“In 2012, we reached another milestone by surpassing the four-million international arrivals’ mark. And despite the calamities that the Philippines endured in 2013, this figure still grew by 10 percent to 4.7 million international arrivals last year,” he added.
Although growth of international arrivals was affected last year, the President said that international tourists have been spending more money on their visits with average daily expenditures among them increasing by 8.7 percent.
President Aquino also said that the Tourism Expo itself is targeting 4,000 to 8,000 more visitors this year and cited some examples wherein the country made it among many lists of top destinations.
“Of course, we cannot be satisfied with what we have achieved so far,” the President said. “The goal now is not merely to maintain our growth, but to cement our position as one of the world’s vacation hot spots.”
“…While I am here to thank and congratulate you for your contributions; I also challenge you to go beyond what you have already done,” he further said.
“The possibilities ahead are limitless now that the world knows that it is indeed more fun in the Philippines — and each one of us is asked to do his part to realize these possibilities,” he stressed. (PNA)