Unleashing the full potential of tourism as a driver of growth

Posted by watchmen
March 19, 2024
Posted in Better Days, OPINION


By Sonny Angara

Since the economy opened up after the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism has been a key contributor to the growth of the Philippine economy.

Based on official data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, tourism made up 6.2 percent of the economy as measured by gross domestic product.

The tourism sector is also an important player when it comes to providing jobs for our people. According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), the tourism sector employs 5.35 million Filipinos or about 11.4 percent of the total employment in the country. That means that more than one in every 10 Filipinos are working in the tourism sector.

For the first two months of 2024, the DOT recorded a total of 1.2 million foreign visitors to the country. As of March 5, the DOT reported a total of 1,227,815 international tourist arrivals. For the entire year, the country targets to generate 7.7 million arrivals.

If realized, this would surpass the 2023 total of 5.45 million tourist arrivals. Comparing the data from the first two months of 2024 to the same period in 2023, it was up by only 22.86 percent from the 999,390 arrivals recorded.

Looking at the data on a per month basis using January as a baseline, we will see that we still have a ways to go in reaching the numbers before the pandemic. In January of 2024, a total of 574,439 international tourists visited the Philippines. This represented a jump of 110,271 tourists over the same period in 2023.

If we go back to January of 2020 or just before the COVID-19 pandemic put to a grinding halt all economic activities globally, the current year’s tally pales in comparison to the 782,132 posted at the time.

What this shows us is that there is still a huge potential for growth for our tourism sector. One particular area that could jumpstart the growth of the sector is the diving industry. Speaking at the Philippine International Dive Expo (PHIDEX), Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco noted that the diving industry contributed P73 billion to the economy in 2023, which was almost two times the 2022 figure of P37 billion.

This does not come as a surprise considering that the Philippines was awarded as Asia’s leading dive destination for a fifth consecutive year in 2023 by the World Travel Awards. The award was based on public votes and validation from the group’s panel of travel professionals.

The Philippines is among the 17 mega biodiverse countries in the world, with more than 20,000 species of plants and animals that are not found anywhere else in the world. We have 2.2 million square kilometers of natural resources. Over 500 species of corals and 2,000 species of fish reside in our waters. This places us in a very strong position as a premier destination for divers.

We have a lot of already popular diving spots known to both domestic and international divers. These include the waters off Cebu, Palawan, Puerto Galera and even the Tubbataha Reef.

There are a lot of lesser known diving spots that are slowly introducing themselves to the world. My home province of Aurora, for one, is making its mark as a diving destination. Baler has long been known as a leading destination for surfers. In fact, Baler has been declared as the birthplace of Philippine surfing by virtue of Republic Act 11957, which lapsed into law in August of 2023.

Now, Aurora is positioning itself as a destination for free diving. Growing in popularity, free diving is evolving from a way of life for local fisherfolk to a hobby for casual divers and a competitive sport for professionals.

In his speech before the 2024 PHIDEX, which was read by Secretary Frasco, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. emphasized the strengthening of collaboration between local and international stakeholders. The President was optimistic that the growth of the diving industry will be further boosted by programs such as the Dive Travel Exchange Business-to-Business meetings. Infrastructure also plays an important part in bringing in more tourists to the country.

It is worth noting that the current administration has recognized this with its Build Better More program. We need more airports with modern facilities and higher capacities, better transportation for greater mobility and health facilities at the tourist destinations that can provide services that are required for different types of emergencies.

We hope to see the completion of the rehabilitation and expansion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Clark International Airport terminals and the development of new facilities such as the soon-to-be completed Bulacan Airport. Increasing the capacity of our airports is crucial if we are to compete with our ASEAN neighbors in bringing in more tourists. There is still a lot of room for growth in the industry and with the appropriate interventions, tourism could become a key driver of growth for the Philippines in the years to come.



Senator Sonny Angara has been in public service for 19 years — nine years as Representative of the Lone District of Aurora, and 10 as Senator. He has authored, co-authored, and sponsored more than 330 laws.  He is currently serving his second term in the Senate.



Email: sensonnyangara@yahoo.com| Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @sonnyangara/WDJ

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