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Powering Philippine growth and prosperity through tourism


There were more than a thousand attendees at the Tourism Summit 2024 last Monday, majority of them MSMEs. They came to learn about the business opportunities in tourism and the challenges that might await them.


President Marcos sent his message of encouragement to the tourism MSMEs and congratulated the recipients of this year’s Inspiring Tourism Entrepreneurs Awards. “You are serving our country well with your exceptional work,” he said, adding that “you are also showing us what it takes to give the Philippines that edge over other destinations.”


The President also echoed the call for stronger partnerships between the government and the private sector, something that has become a theme for all of Go Negosyo’s activities over the last few years. He called on the private sector and government “to endeavor to bring the rewards of a thriving tourism industry directly to the Filipino people.”


I am glad that more of our big brothers in the private sector are allocating their resources to helping our MSMEs, and I am elated to hear that more partners in government have included MSME development in their agenda.


With our combined efforts, the Philippines can become a powerhouse in tourism. This is especially important because developing the MSMEs in the tourism industry will have a multiplier effect on other industries like agriculture, manufacturing, retail and construction. Tourism has the potential to create jobs, especially in the provinces where jobs are most needed.


Tourism has the power to help us realize our dream of becoming an upper-middle class country. The Tourism Summit helps advance this by casting tourism within the framework of entrepreneurship, through the mentoring of MSMEs in the tourism industry and the facilitation of access to money and markets for MSMEs.


I have always asserted that we need to strengthen the base of our economy and help those at the bottom of the pyramid. My vision is for that pyramid to one day become a Circle of Prosperity, where everyone benefits, where everyone helps each other and each link is crucial to the health of the entire circle. More MSMEs being set up means more jobs. More jobs means more empowered consumers. Powerful consumers means more businesses being set up. It is a virtuous cycle where everyone, not just those at the top of the pyramid, benefit.


Last year, the Department of Tourism completed the National Tourism Development Plan for 2023-2028. It outlines a clear path toward establishing a sustainable, resilient and competitive industry that will transform the Philippines into a tourism powerhouse in Asia, and anchoring its efforts on Philippine culture, identity and heritage.


Already, we are seeing the fruits of this plan. As of end 2023, the Philippines exceeded its target of 4.8 million visitors and welcomed more than 5 million. In the first quarter of 2024 alone, the Philippines already had over 2 million tourists, marking an increase from the same period the previous year. These numbers are a testament to the industry’s recovery and the country’s emergence as a top-tier tourist destination; it puts the target of 7.7 million visitors in 2024 well within the realm of the possible. With hope, these will translate to economic activity that is spread all over the country and will deliver tangible benefits to Filipinos.


But as the President correctly pointed out, these numbers are also a challenge for us to step up. Can our infrastructure handle the increased volume of tourists? Are we up to the task of serving tourists who have seen the best the world can offer? Do we have something different and memorable to offer our visitors? Do we have what it takes to go head-to-head with our neighbors in Southeast Asia who are already tourism superstars?


Here is where upskilling and upscaling will be important. Our MSMEs are the frontliners in tourism; they offer visitors a glimpse of the everyday Filipino, in their products, their culture, their heritage. But, as the MSMEs who have been recognized in the Inspiring Tourism Entrepreneurs Awards over the years have proven, being small is no obstacle to providing world-class products and services.


On their own time and dime, the past and present recipients of the awards have proven that it is possible to elevate the game in tourism accommodations, food, retail, services, ecotourism and recreation. The content creator-awardees among them showed how creatively conceived content can generate excitement about Philippine tourist destinations.


Just in our current batch of awardees, we have entrepreneurs who have built successful tourism enterprises; some capitalized on local flavors and heritage cuisine, another is a startup that created virtual explorations of tourist sites to encourage actual visits, while one practically built a permaculture tourism attraction out of an abandoned garbage lot.


Truly, every year that we hold the Inspiring Tourism Entrepreneurs Awards brings plenty of surprises that reinforce and strengthen our belief in Filipino ingenuity and industry. That is why the President’s call to support MSMEs resonates so strongly, especially when seen through the framework of public-private sector cooperation. The presence of First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos, Tourism Sec. Christina Garcia Frasco, TPB head Marga Nograles and DTI Usec for MSMEs Cris Roque, there side-by-side at the Tourism Summit with the leaders of tourism industry groups, CEOs of large corporations, small business owners, students and travel vloggers, made the event feel inclusive and filled with hope.


The active participation of every stakeholder matters. When we harness the power of public-private sector cooperation to propel tourism to become a major contributor to Philippine economic growth, we help uplift the lives of the ordinary Filipino.



Source: Go Negosyo - www.philstar.com

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