Tourism bill to enhance RP's tourism competitiveness
The Philippines can regain its spot, and even climb up, in the global tourism competitiveness ranking as soon as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signs into law the proposed Tourism Act of 2009, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said.
Gordon, chief author of the Tourism Bill, said the country's tourism industry will become more competitive once the law expected to be enacted into law soon allows the establishment of tourism enterprise zones (TEZs) in strategic areas in the country.
"The bill seeks primarily to promote the tourism industry through the development and integration of tourism concepts, to regulate standards for the operation of the tourism industry and to establish a tourism infrastructure program," he said.
"With the faithful implementation of this measure, the nation can have a better institution to regulate and promote tourism and install the necessary infrastructures to make our country truly world-class," he added.
In the World Economic Forum's third annual Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, the Philippines placed 86th among 13 countries surveyed for tourism competitiveness, sliding from its 81st spot in 2008.
The country is also reportedly weak in areas of safety and security (113th), health and hygiene levels (87th), and transport, tourism and ICT infrastructure that require upgrading.
The report, however, cited that some aspects of the policy rules and regulations are conducive to the development of the country's tourism sector. These include the few visa requirements for foreign visitors and the bilateral Air Service Agreements that are assessed as comparatively open.
Gordon, a former tourism secretary, said the tourism bill aims to upgrade and develop the country's tourism industry by declaring a national policy for tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development, primarily through the establishment of TEZs.
These TEZs will provide the necessary vehicle to coordinate actions of the public and private sectors to address development barriers, attract and focus investment on specific geographic areas and upgrade product and service quality.
The bill also seeks to strengthen the Department of Tourism and its attached agencies.
"The Department of Tourism would lead the establishment of a tourism infrastructure program and coordinate with other agencies to identify vital access roads, airports, seaports and other infrastructure requirement in identified tourism areas," Gordon said.