The Philippines desperately wants to increase tourism in the country as a way to bolster the economy of the country. Let’s face it, for a tropical country like the Philippines, tourism is an excellent avenue for bringing in Dollars (or any currency). People from all over the world want to spend their holiday time on beaches, basking in the warm sun, etc. Others want good shopping destinations. Others want cultural excursions. Some want to go scuba diving, and still others want culinary delights. The Philippines has all of these, so why can’t it attract many tourists?
The Philippine Government is constantly touting the fact that the number of tourists to the country continues to grow in numbers. Yes, that is good, but the fact is that compared to it’s neighbors, the Philippines is still attracting few visitors. Let’s look at a very successful Asian country in terms of tourism, Thailand. Thailand attracts around 20 Million tourist visitors per year. How many foreign tourists visit the Philippines? Around 3 million per year. That’s only about 15% of the Tourists that go to Thailand! And, most of the “tourists” that come to the Philippines are not really tourists in the traditional sense. Most visitors who come here are actually Filipinos who live or work overseas, and are coming home to visit their families. I would include in this Filipinos who are married to foreigners and coming home to visit. It’s still good to have these people come home and spend some money here, but they don’t spend like a normal tourist does. For example, most visiting Filipinos don’t stay in hotels, they stay at the home of their family. They don’t go out and do many “tourist” things, they stay at home and visit with their family. Nothing wrong with that, it just is not supporting the local tourist business to the extent that somebody here on holiday or vacation is doing.
So, why aren’t a lot of “real tourists” coming here to enjoy the fun and the sun of the Philippines? I believe that there are two reasons for the problem.
- The perception that the Philippines is not safe.
- Poor tourism infrastructure.
In my opinion, most of the Philippines is quite safe, and should not scare away tourists. However, the bad news is what everybody hears. You have kidnappings, not only in Mindanao where I live, but businessmen and their families regularly get kidnapped in Manila, it’s more of an extortion racket than anything else, but it gets in the news. I can’t remember a tourist getting kidnapped in Manila, but the kidnappings of businessmen scare away tourists. The Philippine has to figure out a way of putting a stop to this kind of activity before tourists will come. And, on top of stopping it, they have to rehabilitate the reputation of the country before the floodgates will be full of tourists.
Infrastructure is terrible when it comes to tourism here. I am not talking about roads and such, although many of them need work too. What I am talking about is the ability to book a hotel room online, the ability to rent a car, things like this. A person can go online, make all his plans to visit Thailand, reserve his rooms, arrange for any service he needs, and all over the internet. It isn’t the same for the Philippines! Sure, if you want to book a room in Manila, no problem. But, try to book a room in Dumaguette or Bacolod. How about a room in General Santos City. It is nearly impossible to make these reservations online.
Today, I was reading a Philippine Government website. They had a story about how the first Philippine Hotel Booking website had gone online and was ready for business. I went and visited the site, and unfortunately, it was not ready for the viewing public! They had hotels in Manila, and the surrounding area, they had a few hotels in Cebu. Other than that, they had nothing. I did a search for Davao hotels. Davao is where I live, so I know about the hotels here, and wanted to judge the website on how well it covered Davao hotels. I clicked on Davao and got this message:
Our listing for this location has not been uploaded to our website yet.
To inquire about this location and about the more than 200 hotels in our listing
please call us at (02) 812 PHRS (812 7477). We apologize for the inconvenience.
I clicked on other cities and got the same message. I understand that it takes time to build a website, but this site is being advertised already, and it is not ready. They had other categories listed on the front page with the message “coming in May.” Well, it’s already July, and the content is still “coming in May.” This is the problem with attracting tourists here, the infrastructure is not there. Another problem on the site, in my opinion, is that even for the hotels that are listed, you can’t make a reservation on the site. You have to get all the information and then fax them in Manila to set up the reservation and pay by credit card. It’s inconvent, and in the travel business, you should do everything possible for the convenience of your customer.
I used to live in General Santos, and it is virtually impossible to find a hotel for General Santos that is online. Recently (last year) one hotel opened up a website. I used their “online booking” to see how it worked. The way it was set up, I entered the reservation and they were supposed to e-mail me back to let me know if the booking was available. I did that last year, and am still waiting to hear back from them. It’s typical, unfortunately.
I am not trying to be negative here, I really want people to come and enjoy vacationing in the Philippines! It’s a great place to visit! But, the business people and the Government here need to take steps to make it easy to come here! Right now, you can easily set up a trip to Thailand, but you have to work to set up a trip to the Philippines!