THE number of tourist arrivals in a city or province is a measurement of the vibrancy of the local economy because of the money the visitors are expected to spend during their trips.
The Department of Trade and Industry (www.dti.gov.ph) reported that international tourist arrivals to the Philippines rose by 16.1 percent to 1.4 million visitors for the period January-February 2018 compared to its level in the same period last year.
South Korea remained the country’s top tourism market with 25.2 percent share of the total Philippine tourist arrivals from January to February 2018, with 354,700 visitors. China was second with 256,880 visitors in the country, followed by the United States with 193,985, Japan with 117,300, and Australia with 50,404.
These tourists brought into the local economy what they spent for their trips, accommodation, meals, tours, and other needs. They contributed to the viability of the work and the lives of those in the tourism industry. But did they help in the overall sustainability of the city or province by keeping renewable resources safe from depletion?
The national government resorted to drastic ways with the closure of Boracay. Local government units are also looking at measures to limit the damage that may arise from an increase in visitors.
In Baguio City, for example, a measure before the City Council seeks to charge visitors “congestion and ecology fees” for their use of motor vehicles when in the mountain resort. “The unending traffic fiasco in the summer capital has become an inevitable reality. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, and while we are no experts in traffic management, we must now make a bold move to tame traffic as our City is drowning in vehicles,” Councilor Edgar Avila said in a SunStar Baguio report.
A P200 to P400 daily congestion charge will be imposed during holidays. The fee of P200 per day will be for those who will drive their cars, jeeps or vans into the city and toward tourist destinations, hotels, resorts, churches, and grottos, among others. It will be P400 per day for tourist buses. In addition, Avila’s proposal called for a “tourist ecology fee,” a one-time payment of P50 for each local or tourist.
Hotels and tourism industry operators and the traffic management group would do the collecting from tourists. The money would be used to improve the traffic system and to protect Baguio’s parks.
In Cebu, the once-a-month closure of the sandbars and dive sites in Sumilon island is a way to limit the number of visitors and to allow the recovery of resources.
Those measures in Baguio and Cebu cities would not have been implemented years ago when government’s direction was to seek more arrivals. Not anymore, not with the abuse of resources evident in the air we breathe and the water we swim in or drink.
A tourism innovation forum will be held in Cebu in June as an activity of the Cebu Business Month. It will be a good time to design new and more ways to prevent further degradation, rather than take up only how to keep the tourists coming.