THE Department of Tourism (DOT) said it will be securing the future of the country’s English as Second Language (ESL) program to continue attracting foreign students to learn the language in the Philippines.
DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said the agency will be unveiling the ESL roadmap soon, which charts the direction of the country’s programs and promotional efforts to cement its standing as a leading ESL destination in Asia.
“We will soon roll out a roadmap for education tourism, specifically for ESL for which Cebu is a top-notch destination among different markets,” said Bengzon, during the Tourism Innovation Summit held at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel.
He noted that the agency already charted the course for tourism products like meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice), cruise, medical tourism and eco-tourism.
DOT, he said, is looking into ESL, citing the country’s leadership in teaching foreign students to learn English.
Stakeholders in Cebu regard the province as a dominant ESL player in the Philippines.
It first offered services to Koreans, and eventually diversified to include other non-English speaking markets like Japan.
They said Cebu’s proximity to the beaches, presence of direct flights to Asian destinations, cheaper ESL rates and highly qualified English teachers have made the province attractive for non-English speaking students.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), ESL is another service opportunity that Filipino entrepreneurs can offer to new markets like China as the country experiences a shortage of bilingual workers.
Glenn Penaranda, commercial counsellor at the Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Beijing, in previoud interviews, said that as China opens its trade to the world, it would need to master English to better communicate with non-Chinese business partners.
“With the opening up policy of China, more and more enterprises are going global. This is an opportunity where Filipinos could come in and offer ESL to this market especially that they have shortage of talent of bilingual people with international experience,” said Penaranda.
He is confident that the Philippines would succeed in this venture, citing progress it has made and achievements it reached in the IT-BPM sphere.
Besides ESL, Bengzon also mentioned farm tourism as a new product that the DOT will be pushing for this year. It aims to make farm tourism an agent to reduce poverty and inequality.
The agency, he added, will also restart its global advertising efforts and review the implementation of the National Tourism Development Plan.
“As part of our desire to maintain stronger presence abroad, we are now about to complete our feasibility study on the recommended DOT foreign offices... so we can be more responsive and effective,” said Bengzon.
“We will also review the NTDP. We have to look out for which programs we can continue, (which) we can build on and those that we can tweak or discard altogether,” he added.
Bengzon said that amid the difficulties the tourism sector experienced the past year, the industry has maintained a good market source portfolio, which insulated it from internal and external pressures.
The Mactan-Cebu International Airport recorded 2.6 million passengersi n the first quarter this year, up by eight percent compared to the same period last year.
Foreign passengers grew by 12 percent at 931,652. Domestic passengers, on the other hand, stood at 1.7 million up by seven percent. (KOC)