REVIEWING the country’s tourism performance for the past six years will be crucial in determining new tourism programs under the new administration, industry stakeholders said.

Tourism advocate Robert Joseph, chairman of Tourism Educators and Movers (Team) of the Philippines and founder of Network of Independent Travel Agencies (Nitas), noted that a review of the programs is necessary to chart the direction of the tourism sector in the next six years.

The Philippines, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT), has already reached the final year of implementation of the 2011-2016 National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), the country’s masterplan for the development of the tourism sector.

The agency is now drafting a successor plan that covers the years between 2017 and 2022.

DOT 7 Director Rowena Montecillo said that the successor plan details the status and accomplishments of the NTDP under the current administration and includes a road map for the next six years.

“The report will facilitate a smooth transition for the next leadership,” she said.

The DOT targets six million tourist arrivals this year and an estimated tourism revenue of $6.5 billion. At present, the sector contributes 8.5 percent to the total gross domestic product. The updated road map hopes to increase tourism contribution to 10 to 12 percent in the next three to five years.

Traditionally, when a new president takes office, a new set of cabinet officials is appointed to govern various government agencies. While the duration of the service of these officials is coterminous with that of the president, industry stakeholders are lobbying for the sustainability of tourism programs, especially those that have produced long-term positive outcomes for the country.

“Tourism sustainability is something that the new administration has to give priority to,” said Edilberto Mendoza Jr., president of Cebu Association of Tour Operators (Cato). “This is because we need to bring in more investments to the government and not only depend on the dollar remittances from our overseas Filipinos.”

For Joseph, the tourism sector needs brand new leadership.

“We want a person who is passionate and loves our country beyond self,” he said.

The Nitas official emphasized the need of the new tourism secretary to hold regular consultations with the industry stakeholders to improve the status of the industry, eliminate loopholes in the current Tourism Law and push for relevant and sustainable tourism marketing strategies.

Joseph added the new secretary should come up with a six-year plan with the collaboration of the different tourism stakeholders and present the plan for review and comments. He underscored that consultations should be done regularly for the industry to come up with a well-coordinated marketing promotions.

More importantly, he said the new tourism official should lead in developing infrastructure with the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Transportation and Communications.

“The new administration should improve our tourism infrastructures like airports, ports and transportations to meet international standards,” suggested Mendoza.

Growth in tourism this year, according to the DOT, will be backed by three major drivers— improvement in air connectivity, expansion in the country’s capacity to accommodate tourists and efforts of the government to market local tourism globally.

Cebu, meanwhile, is aggressively pushing ecotourism in the south as a way to attract more tourists to explore other tourism jewels of the province.

The Cebu Investment and Promotions Office (CIPO) collaborated with the nine local government units in Southern Cebu for a four-day training in community-based ecotourism last month.

Some 60 stakeholders benefited from the workshop conducted by Boboi Costas, an award-winning innovator in community-based ecotourism.

The workshop covered discussions on ecotourism best practices, culture, cuisine, crafts and textiles, hospitality, waste management as well as legislation and government policies in relation to to tourism laws and protected areas.

While some LGUs are aware of the socio-economic benefits that ecotourism can bring, Costas noted there are some LGUs that haven’t maximized their eco-tourism potential, as reflected by the low priority assigned to tourism planning and coordination.

“Some municipalities do still look at tourism as low priority. Some don’t even have a tourism office or officer yet,” said Costas in a press statement. “While some are almost ready to launch, such as Alcoy, they need support from the government for infrastructure and roads.”