TOURISTS coming from abroad have increased as of September 2018, translating to 5.36 million arrivals.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat reported this on Friday, November 23, at the Tourism and Hospitality Tech Summit and Expo 2018.

P_20181123_135714_1Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat at Enderun Colleges’ tech summit. (EKU)

Enderum Colleges and Enderun Extension organized and hosted the two-day event in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, to highlight technology and innovation impacting the tourism and hospitality industry.

Romulo-Puyat said the period “January to September of this year, we registered an 8.32 percent growth (equivalent of 5.36 million) in foreign tourist arrivals versus the same period last year (4.95 million).”

She cited the drivers of the country’s tourism growth, such as “more connections, affordable rates, and aggressive market activations” as the DOT developed and promoted more destinations.

The DOT chief also mentioned before the summit data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in relation with tourism’s contribution to the national economy.

She said that as of 2017, the PSA reported that the tourism sector added 12.2 percent (which is around Php1.93 trillion) to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

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“For the same period, employment in tourism was estimated at 5.3 million or 13.06 percent of total employment,” Romulo-Puyat noted.

Tourism policies, programs

DOT has 16 regional officers and eight attached agencies, which together the department has been formulating tourism policies, programs, and projects designed to develop the tourism industry as a major contributor to the economy.

In relation with this task, Romulo-Puyat said they have identified nine major tourism products, such as:

  • Nature-based tourism (eco-tourism, farm tourism, and adventure tourism);
  • Cultural heritage tourism;
  • Health, wellness, and retirement tourism;
  • MICE tourism;
  • Cruise and nautical tourism;
  • Educational tourism;
  • Leisure and entertainment tourism;
  • Diving, underwater photography, and marine sports tourism; and, of course;
  • Sun and Beach tourism.

Romulo-Puyat recalled one of her first orders as DOST secretary, saying it was to craft a Farm Tourism road map. She noted passage of the Farm Tourism Development Act in 2016.

To underscore her point, she named success stories in the farm tourism sector that indicate “a bright spot for our tourism industry.”

They are Davao’s Puentespina Cacao Farm and the Malagos Garden Resort; Negros Occidental’s Rapha Valley; Villa Socorro in Pagsanjan, Laguna; Teraoka Farm in Mangatarem, Pangasinan; Costales Farms in Majayjay, Laguna; and Grape Farm in La Union.

P_20181123_110807Enderun Colleges Director of Digital Transformation Colin Christie opens summit. (EKU)

“Their numbers will continue to rise as the demand for ‘low-impact tourism’ is still increasing,” she added, hastening to add that farms as idea for tourist destinations is not new, recalling her visits to farm tourism sites when she was with the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Technology and tourism industry

A battery of speakers discussed various topics revolving around the event’s theme: Mapping Out Tomorrow’s Tourism and Hospitality Ecosystem” taking into account the impact of technology and innovation on the industry.

They deep-dived into recent trends and technologies which are shaping the industry’s future.

Enderun Colleges said the summit focused on how to equip delegates with the know-how to transform the way they attract and engage with customers, run their businesses, and set themselves apart from the competition.

Colin Christie, director of Digital Transformation at Enderun Colleges, pointed out the “exponential growth” of change in technological innovation.

IoT growing exponentially

He particularly cited the increasing number of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), saying the increase is “exponential” with many kinds of devices being connected to the internet.

“Our homes, our cars, our appliances, and microwave which you can talk to directly. ‘Put my potato in here.’ The number of devices being connected to the internet is growing at an exponential rate, approaching, 40, 50, 60 billion devices,” Christie said.

The number of data is doubling every three years, he said.

Romulo-Puyat said technological breakthroughs of 21st century have revolutionized tourism, paving the opening of more doors for opportunities and possibilities to many people to travel.

“In this digital age, ‘choices’ and ‘options’, which then were merely just nouns, now abound in travel in more ways than one. Today’s technology has given us the freedom to choose, plan and explore travel more conveniently and in the most cost-effective way possible,” she said.

The DOT chief said these breakthroughs have given way to a whole new generation of ‘do-it-yourself travelers. Now, traveling is as easy as one, two and three (plan, manage and book online).

“With just one click, one can easily plan a trip; choose from a wide array of itineraries that are readily available online; to booking one’s flight — and there’s a lot of them nowadays that  offer some of the best deals,” Romulo-Puyat said.

Meanwhile, Romulo-Puyat emphasized DOT’s adherence to the World Tourism Organization’s (WTO) definition of sustainable tourism.

“Tourism takes full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities,” she quoted the WTO. (EKU)