ACCORDING to popular travel website TripAdvisor, Boracay’s White Beach and Puka Shell Beach are among the 25 best beaches in Asia (No. 2 and No. 25, respectively).
Also in the list are two beaches in El Nido, Palawan – Nacpan Beach (No. 13) and Las Cabanas Beach (No. 22).
What do these rankings mean for the Philippine tourism sector – and the economy in general?
Why is it other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, even Vietnam, are attracting more tourists – by the millions! – than the Philippines?
Perhaps our international marketing strategy needs more tweaking to lure more holidaymakers. We need to be “top of mind” among tourists. We should be more aggressive in marketing. We should be focused on our messaging because while we have a lot of beautiful tourist spots, we must choose only one message that will reverberate in people’s minds.
Tourism infrastructure, such as airports, seaports, roads and bridges, is also crucial in attracting more tourists, perhaps even the most important. According to the Department of Tourism, the competitive advantage of the Philippines over other countries in Asia is that it is able to position itself as a multiple-gateway destination. For instance, in Western Visayas, there are three international airports — Kalibo, Caticlan and Iloilo. However, problems on airport infrastructure and traffic remain.
Tourism infrastructure must be improved and obviously, the country’s main gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, must be decongested. We should promote other international airports in the country such as the Clark International Airport, which will be the gateway not only to Central Luzon but also to the Cordillera Region. The upgrading of other vital airports in the country, like the General Santos Airport, which is the gateway to Region 12 and even the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is vital, too.
We really have to improve our airports and seaports because these are the areas where we first welcome tourists. They have a huge impact on the overall experience of visiting our country. The moment they step in, they should already feel welcome, happy and safe and they should leave our country feeling the same.