TOURISM stakeholders in Cebu called for the immediate replacement of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo.
They said the vacant tourism secretary post should be filled immediately so the country’s tourism momentum and the various projects and campaigns that need to be executed are not disrupted.
“The leadership vacuum should be filled in immediately because tourism contributes significantly to the country’s gross domestic product,” said Stanley Go, president of Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Teo is facing controversy over the P60-million advertising deal granted by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. owned by her brother Ben Tulfo, a block-timer of state-run Philippine Television Network Inc. Bitag runs “Kilos Pronto,” where the DOT ads where placed.
Carlo Suarez, president of Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) said President Duterte projected a strong political will in managing his cabinet, which for him is “very admirable.” “It’s good that the alleged corruption against her is addressed swiftly. I hope the new leadership in the agency will have a stronger impact on the industry,” said tourism advocate Jonathan Jay Aldeguer.
Whoever is the next tourism chief, Go said he or she must have a good grasp of tourism trade and should focus on developing programs and projects related to experiential tourism, not only on tourism campaigns and promotions.
“We need to focus on the journey of our tourists as they visit our beautiful attractions,” said Go.
Suarez also emphasized the need to zero in on tourism improvements rather than get caught in political controversies which could derail the growth of tourism.
“We need to move fast, wisely and strategically and take advantage of the tourism growth in Asia,” said the HRRAC official, adding that the country needs to join its neighboring countries in putting tourism at the forefront, welcoming tourists, similar to what Vietnam and Singapore are doing.
HRRAC recommends that the next DOT secretary should be knowledgeable on both global and national tourism status.
Suarez added that it would also helpful to pick a leader from industry and not merely a political appointee.
Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Antonio Chiu hopes Teo’s resignation serves as a message to government employees, including cabinet members that the President “is serious in cleaning up the government bureaucracy.” Cebu Business Club president Gordon Alan Joseph called her resignation “refreshing,” if her reason for resigning was the controversy surrounding the advertising deal.
“It is refreshing to see a public leader who takes personal accountability sincerely and seriously. There are too many politicians and executives in the government who should resign but don’t because they feel entitled to their positions for life,” he said.