According to a recent Foreign Policy article, the former picture of the global tourism industry being dominated by Western tourists visiting so-called “exotic locales” glosses over a bigger story—the rise of the Asian tourist.
As the middle class is growing fast across the developing world, particularly in Asia, many of them are beginning to spend more of their money on vacations and holidays. Based on the latest United Nation World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data, China already overtook the US, the former global leader, in terms of outbound travelers. In 2016 some 135 million Chinese tourists went around the world and spent up to $261 billion—an amount larger than the GDPs of many nations, like Greece or Portugal.
India is also fast-becoming a force in global tourism. According to the UNWTO, 20 million Indian tourists travelled the world last year, and that number could balloon to 50 million in three years.
Such growing number of tourists from Asia is already reshaping the travel industry in significant ways, as many established names in the hospitality industry have begun to actively court more Chinese, Indian, and other Asian tourists.
If Philippine tourism will continue to grow and become a driver of economic growth, government and the tourism industry must work to attract more Asian tourists. A good first step was made when the Department of Tourism (DOT) announced that Chinese nationals can now avail themselves of entry visas upon their arrival in a Philippine airport. The Chinese nationals covered include members of DOT-accredited tour groups, businessmen endorsed by government agencies and local and foreign chambers of commerce, athletes and delegates to conventions and exhibitions. Such privileges are similarly being considered for Indian nationals.
And right in our own backyard, we must do more to attract the travel-savvy tourists from the nine other Asean countries. Much work still needs to be done to fully tap the tourism markets of countries with emerging middle-classes. There exist significant gaps in airports, roads, mass transportation and other tourism-related infrastructure. Many still doubt the safety and security conditions in the Philippines. Allaying their fears would require a radical change in the mindset of our law-enforcement agencies.
In other words, while the marketing efforts should aggressively target the growing Asian middle-class, government can and should endeavor to do major infrastructure and mount an even more fundamental shift in the drug war in helping our tourism industry develop.
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