CLARK FREEPORT ZONE – The Philippine tourism industry will get a further boost with the upcoming regional integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as it will trigger an influx of tourists from the region’s member-economies, tourism officials said.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) expects that ASEAN integration will hasten inter-regional travel and consequently open the doors for more tourists in the country by next year.
DOT Assistant Secretary for market development Benito Bengzon Jr. said the integration would be a boon for the country in terms of capturing visitors from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“In our case, we will relax our restrictions to make it easier for people to move around in the Philippines,” Bengzon said at the sidelines of the three-day North Philippines Tourism and Travel Expo 2014 which opened late Friday at the events center of SM City Clark.
Bengzon, who was guest speaker during the NorthPhil Expo, said the Philippines as an archipelago is dependent on airplanes for the movement of tourists, unlike the other countries. “By this, it means what we are getting are legitimate tourists who travel by plane just to get to our place.”
He added that the country’s foreign visitor arrivals, which posted a 10 percent increase last year, is expected to grow further with ASEAN integration.
DOT Region 3 director Ronaldo Tiotuico, meanwhile, noted that free trade paves the way for the establishment of a single market and production base among the member-countries. This means that there will be a free flow of goods, including rice, services, investment, capital and skilled labor to these countries. The goal is to create a highly competitive single market that would boast of equitable economic development.
“In the same way, tourists can go from one place to another without restrictions,” he added. “So if you are a tour guide in the Philippines, you can also be a tour guide in other places.”
Tiotuico also said that with ASEAN integration, the 10 member-countries would have a standard tourism program for the region. This is particularly beneficial to Central Luzon which posted 2.7 million domestic and foreign tour arrivals in 2013, the bulk of whom came by way of Clark and Subic, all connected by arterial roads such as the North Luzon Expressway and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
NorthPhil Expo is a project of the DOT offices in Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Ilocos Region and the Cordillera Administrative Region, and event-managed by the Philippine Exhibits and Themeparks Corp.
Now on its ninth year, NorthPhil Expo is marked by exhibits showcasing various travel destinations, products and services, provincial pavilions, corporate booths with affordable tour packages and traders’ booths offering souvenirs, arts and crafts and delicacies.
The event also provides common ground for domestic and international tourism stakeholders to explore markets and promote their destinations, products and services.
“Trade visitors and industry buyers have been joining this event regularly, which been working effectively in tourism business networking and trade development,” Bengzon said.
He also stressed that tourism and community development go hand-in-hand in helping build a better quality of life for the people.