By SAMMY JULIAN
Manila News Bureau Chief
MANILA – The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) identified tourism as one of the best assets of the Philippines for recovery and sustainable growth.
“The Philippine people were tested in times of difficulty and they have earned the respect of the whole world by demonstrating greatest courage and confidence,” UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said in a statement issued following his recent trip earlier this month to the Philippines.
He reviewed the recovery progress of Bohol following the devastating October 2013 earthquake and delivered a recovery plan for the region’s tourism sector.
Representing a significant development opportunity for the Bohol province, the tourism sector is fundamental to the region, Rifai noted.
Developed by UNWTO and supported by the Department of Tourism (DOT) of the Philippines, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), the Bohol Tourism Recovery Plan is a roadmap to support the recovery of Bohol’s tourism sector.
The plan includes a global marketing strategy for Bohol, as well as an assessment of what tourism infrastructure and assets need to be prioritized by tourism stakeholders during the recovery process.
In addition, the Recovery Plan provides inputs to develop new tourism products in line with Bohol’s positioning as an eco-cultural destination.
“UNWTO is very pleased to be working alongside the Philippines, the US and PATA to make tourism a tool for recovery and sustainable livelihoods in Bohol,” Rifai said.
Rifai also visited the areas in Tacloban City devastated by super typhoon “Yolanda” in November 2013.
UNWTO, in collaboration with USAID and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), is in the process of finalizing projects which will enrich the tourism experience in Tacloban through a Learning Center on Climate Change and strengthen the local economy by including tourism as an alternative source of income.
Despite being hit by two major natural disasters, UNWTO said tourism in the Philippines saw significant growth in 2013 with international tourist arrivals registering a 10 percent double-digit increase to a total of 4.7 million while international tourism receipts grew by 15 percent to reach $4.7 billion (around P204.9 billion)./PN