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Preparing the Philippine tourism industry for the ASEAN Economic Community 2015

Posted: 2014-12-15
Category: News

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For the Philippine tourism industry to be “competitive” in line of the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) of 2015, it must advance its strategic planning and effectively utilize its labor and capital. This was the general idea shared by experts who participated in the lecture series Raising travel and tourism competitiveness in the Philippines towards ASEAN integration 2015 held last 28 November 2014 at the First Philippine Holdings Caseroom of the Asian Institute of Management, Makati City.

Destination competitiveness, as defined by Dr. Miguela M. Mena, Dean of the University of the Philippines – Asian Institute of Tourism, is “a destination’s ability to attract tourists.” Furthermore, adapting the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), tourism destination competitiveness “is the ability of the place to optimize its attractiveness for the residents and non-residents, to deliver quality, innovative, and attractive tourism services to consumers and to gain market shares on the domestic and global market places, while ensuring that the available resources supporting tourism are used efficiently and in a sustainable way.”

With the huge growth potential of the tourism industry, it has been tagged as a priority integration sector under the AEC. According to Ms. Arlene A. Alipio, Head of the Standards Development Division of the Department of Tourism (DOT), “the ASEAN tourism market has expanded steadily over the years, reaching 89 million in 2012 and 94 million in 2013. More ASEAN nationals are travelling around ASEAN. Similarly, extra-ASEAN or non-ASEAN nationals are going to ASEAN for its beautiful and diverse culture.  Extra-ASEAN accounts for about 55 percent of all arrivals in ASEAN.”

Under the AEC, Alipio emphasized that the Philippines will form part of a single production base for ASEAN enterprises where facilitating the flows of tourist workers within ASEAN will be a critical issue. According to United Nation's estimate, as cited by Alipio, Singapore and Thailand will reach the peak of their working age population in 2018 and 2020, respectively. Hence, there will be scarcity of workers in the travel and tourism industries of these ageing societies. Alternatively, the much younger labor forces of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines can be tapped to mobilize tourist workers across ASEAN economies. That is, ASEAN Member States (AMS) can leverage on each other's advantages.

Having seen the importance of labor in the Philippine tourism industry given the upcoming AEC, strategically increasing the quality of human resources is a must. As such, the DOT collaborated with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the Tourism Industry Board Foundation, Inc. (TIBFI) with the purpose of aligning the tourism curriculum of the country with the ASEAN Common Competency Standards for Tourism Professionals (ACCSTP).

Specifically, Alipio mentioned that the DOT as the National Tourism Organization (NTO) would develop, coordinate, and implement work plans to enhance cooperation in tourism; and provide a mechanism to promote participation from the private or business sector and non-government organizations. Complementing DOT’s efforts, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) serves as the Tourism Professional Certification Board (TPCB). It is mandated to assess qualifications and competencies of tourism professionals as specified in the ACCSTP; issue certificates to tourism professionals whose qualifications and competencies comply with the ACCSTP; and develop, process, and maintain a registry of certified tourism professionals and job opportunities. Meanwhile, the Tourism Industry Board Foundation, Inc. (TIBFI) acts as the National Tourism Professional Board (NTPB). It is mandated to: (1) create awareness and disseminate information about the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA); (2) promote, update, maintain and monitor the ACCSTP and the Common ASEAN Tourism Curriculum (CATC); (3) facilitate the exchange of information on assessment procedures, criteria, systems, manuals and publications relating to the MRA; and (4) facilitate the exchange of best practices in the tourism sector.

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Manpower competitiveness is a necessary requirement to provide employment the growing demand for tourism courses. According to Ms. Ma. Christina G. Aquino, President of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Educators of the Philippines, there were close to 240,000 students enrolled in hotel and restaurant management (HRM) programs in 2,300 higher education institutions (HEIs) of which, 900 offer HRM degrees. Aquino stressed the sudden attraction for tourism-related courses given the emergence of markets that will employ its graduates. Likewise, according to Aquino, the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) is not anymore limited to contact centers and shared services. It is now involved in airline, cruise ships, and hotel reservations – all of which are tourism services. Moreover, hospitels are now existent, wherein customer service oriented staffs enable patients to have a pleasant stay in the hospital by providing a hotel-like experience.

Aside from making labor competitive, Mena underscored the need for a good measure for destination competitiveness. To do this, there is a need to overcome first the problem of data availability in order to create indicators of destination competitiveness that can be classified in objective and subjective measured variables. Finally, there is also a need to develop the core, supplementary, and future development indicators of tourism competitiveness for ASEAN country destinations by upgrading national tourism information system.

However, given all these discussions on competitiveness, Dr. Raymund B. Habaradas, Executive Director of the Center for Business Research and Development of De La Salle University, argued that the Philippines does not need to compete with its ASEAN neighbors for the reason that “it has a huge domestic market of 100 million Filipinos and a large regional market of 600 million ASEAN citizens.” Habaradas emphasized, “Each destination is unique.”  That is, “tourism does not have to be a contest between countries [or] destinations. Even within the [ASEAN] region, there is unlimited potential for both domestic and international tourism. Even the smallest destinations can serve a particular niche.”

Habaradas also said that  “tourism planning and implementation is best done at the local level.” Support from the national government helps, but is not critical. For instance, according to Habaradas, the successes of Cebu, Bohol, and Camarines Sur are largely due to the efforts of their respective local government units. Thus, in line with Mena’s search for destination competitiveness measures, Habaradas recommended to let local destinations decide on the measures they want to employ for planning their tourism strategies and activities – measures that are consistent with their individual development goals. According to Habaradas, “standardizing tourism measures serves very little purpose.”

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This lecture series was organized by the AIM Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism. The program was capped with the launching of the ASEAN 2015 Tourism Case Series: the Philippines, in partnership with the AIM Strategy for ASEAN 2015 headed by Prof. Federico M. Macaranas. The goal of this project is to generate tourism-related knowledge materials, such as case studies and teaching notes to be incorporated into the classrooms. These knowledge materials highlight what the Philippine tourism industry has to offer. The cases and teaching notes cover the following themes: (1) ecotourism; (2) cultural and heritage tourism; (3) sustainable tourism; and (4) retail tourism. At least 50 participants from the government, the media, the private sector, and academicians from the travel and tourism industry participated in the program.

 
 
 
 
 

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