Booking problems

This may sound as “news” to the uninitiated. But we have been telling this all along.

If the country wants to dramatically increase its tourist arrivals, it needs more flights and rooms to accommodate our visitors.

The so-called peace and order image problem in the country is the least concern abroad.

There are also violent incidents in France, Spain, US, Italy and UK, particularly “terrorist bombings” but how come they are the world’s top tourist draws?

They have the sites, the infra and the transport links.

Many areas in the country have plenty of sites, but unfortunately little infra and very limited transport links.

On the latter point, because our air carriers lack the plans and the planes to bring the tourists, we should adopt an “open skies” regime to lure in more foreign carriers.

In the case of Clark, we have seen how the “open skies” policy there raised its visitor arrivals from practically nil in 2003 to over 1 million in less than four years, truly a dramatic increase.

It is elementary. The success of Clark should be replicated in the whole country, if not in our key gateways like Davao.

(5:40 a.m.)

50 million tourists?

When former Manila mayor Lito Atienza was recently appointed as environment secretary, it drew flak from various sectors, particularly environmentalists.

Now, he is drawing flak from the tourism industry.

PhilStar has this report today:

Atienza said he is confident that ecotourism will be a “very, very big attraction” in the country.

The DOT is targeting three million international tourists this year, but “at some point in time,” Atienza said, it is “possible” this will reach 50 million.”

50 Million? My foot!

Atienza is not only dreaming while wide awake. He is hallucinating.

We know for a fact that there is simply no way to bring in 50 million tourists with our lack of air seat capacity. With a protected local airline industry, this goal is simply unreachable.

Also, we know for a fact that when he was mayor of the country’s capital, Atienza’s brand of ecotourism is to litter the Manila Baywalk with eateries of his cronies, including tax dodgers, and converting parks into parking spaces!

(6:30 a.m.)

Tourist stats

Tourism arrivals in the Philippines increased by 7.6 percent during the first semester.

On the other hand, Macau’s visitor arrivals from southeast Asia alone have leaped 68.92 percent.

Visitors in the Philippines reached 1.5 million during the first six months.

Macau, which has less tourist attractions than the Philippines, has more than 12 million!

That’s more than 2 million a month!

Key reason – more flights to the Chinese enclave.

Here, government would rather protect local air carriers than open the skies for more foreign airlines. Thus, the marked difference in our tourist traffic. Our whole year’s goal of 3 million tourists can be achieved by Macau in less than two months.

(4:50 a.m.)

A law, not mere EO

I have been described at the Club 888 media forum on business and tourism as a “one-man army” fighting for the pocket “open skies” policy for the Davao (Bangoy) International Airport.

I have written two Resolutions in the City Council, the first in 2003, and the second, last year; made a lot of noise to win public support; and sent to Malacanang two draft Executive Orders patterned after the air liberalization regime in Clark.

No less than Mayor Rody Duterte has also followed up on this request at the Palace through a letter to the President.

Unfortunately, to no avail.

I stopped posting on my advocacy blog Davao dot come! to please some Davao tourism industry players who requested that lobbying for this policy should be discreet.

Nah, nothing happened either.

In the cabinet, I found an ally in Planning Secretary Romulo Neri. He backed my position that Davao City should establish air links with northeast Asia rather than just be content with BIMP-EAGA.

This ASEAN sub-region, unfortunately, has very low tourist traffic. Davao’s hope for a dramatic rise in its visitor arrival is in the rich markets of Korea, Japan and Greater China composed of the Mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Now, Neri’s former office at the Lower House is also battling for the same policy. This time, they want a law, not a mere EO, to define the “open skies” regime.

This would be a tough fight. I wonder what would be the position of Davao Congress representatives on this issue?