PH tourism ahead in preparation for economic integration in 2015-A A +A
By Mia A. Aznar
Monday, August 26, 2013
THOUGH some industries seem to have a long way to go in preparing for the Asean Economic Community by December 2015, one such sector that is believed to be ahead in the Philippines is tourism.
Tourism opportunities are among the benefits of the AEC, said Alma Rita Jimenez, president of Health Solution Corp. Jimenez spoke on the country’s readiness during a forum on integration sponsored by the Financial Executives Institute of Cebu.
Other benefits include regional cooperation, more foreign investments, strengthening of small and medium enterprises and internationalization of healthcare.
For Jimenez, integration makes “financial and business sense” and the tourism sector is poised to benefit from integration, as it has a ready market of 600 million people scattered all over the region. She added that despite economic problems around the
world, the tourism sector has continued to grow.
International tourists breached the one-billion mark and Southeast Asia saw the highest increase in foreign visitors at nine percent.
Jimenez admitted that it would appear the Philippines is only beginning to start preparing when other neighboring nations have been in the midst of their preparations way ahead.
However, she feels the burden lies on on the business community to lead the way. “Because we stand to lose if we don’t keep up our game.” She added that 97 percent of the industry is private sector-led.
For Jimenez, the Philippines has to be more than just fun. “We need to deliver a compelling reason why we should be the destination to visit.”
Culture of tourism
She added that now is the best time to become involved because people are talking about tourism. She urged everyone to familiarize themselves with the issues surrounding the Asean integration, saying there is a wealth of information available on the Internet.
Jimenez said it is important for Filipinos to develop a culture of tourism and become a more hospitable place for tourists, especially in the areas of safety and security.
She also cited the need to improve competencies, the quality of services available and the quality of products but still maintaining competitive pricing while investments can be recovered.
Along with integration comes a high set of standards that leaves tourism stakeholders no option but to comply or risk losing accreditation.
Another thing Jimenez pointed out is that Filipinos tend to apologize for some inconveniences that tourists go through to reach a destination, saying sometimes, it is part of the experience. She encouraged the retention of culture and heritage.
Transparency in pricing
She also lamented that some entrepreneurs and service providers tend to overcharge tourists, which can be a turnoff for them if they do not see transparency in their pricing. She said this does not just apply to vendors and tourism destinations, saying even doctors who have foreign patients charge double. “They are never certain about the amount, which is why they are very careful about being hospitalized. We should be more transparent in our pricing.”
Jimenez said the private sector need not wait for the government to push them to conform to international standards. She asked that stakeholders take it upon themselves to see now their own enterprises measure up and work on improving themselves if they do not meet them.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 27, 2013.