News Analysis Tourism

Internal improvement needed

World Economic Forum’s 2017 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report: tourist service infrastructure
World Economic Forum’s 2017 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report: tourist service infrastructure

While many of the ills that beleaguer Philippine tourism are beyond the control of the industry itself – the country’s paucity of transport infrastructure for example – there are other areas where the sector has more control and could make greater efforts to improve the experience of travellers to the Philippines.

One such area, covered in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report is ’Tourist service infrastructure’. This measures four criteria: the quality of infrastructure – i.e., hotels, resorts, entertainment facilities – the availability of automated teller machines (ATMs); room-accommodation numbers, and the presence of major car-rental companies.

In all of these, the industry – both at the public-sector level through the Department of Tourism (DOT) and at the private-sector level through tour operators and travel agencies could work more closely with the hotel, resort and restaurant trade, banks and hire-car firms to build a more substantial tourism-services infrastructure to meet the needs of visitors to the archipelago.

For example, holidaymakers and business travellers need access to cash while they’re in the country; for obvious reasons they don’t carry wads of money around with them. Furthermore, they want to withdraw that cash instantly; they don’t have time to be hunting around for ATMs. But how many banks have been approached to see if they can help remedy this issue? Are ATM locations included on city tourist maps?

Leaving aside the obvious benefit to tourism – the more cash visitors can withdraw, the more cash ends up in the economy – travellers back in their home countries are not used to the inconvenience of being unable to locate ATMs. When that happens on a foreign trip, when time is crucial, it goes beyond inconvenience; it becomes a travel problem.

As far as the quality of hotels, resorts etc are concerned, the DOT should have taken the lead in this a long time ago. Tourism can’t operate like a free-for all, it has to abide by recognised standards and the DOT – as tourism authorities do in other countries – should be responsible for enforcing those standards and penalising companies that fail to meet them. Tourists in the main are not brain dead; they compare destination with destination and they know when services and amenities are lacking and fail to meet their expectations.

Here are the Philippines’ ranking for ’Tourism services infrastructure’ in the context of eight member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) – Brunei and Myanmar were not included in this survey which looked at 136 countries worldwide.

Thailand, 16th; Singapore, 24th; Malaysia, 46th; Laos, 86th; Philippines, 87th; Indonesia, 96th; Cambodia, 102nd; Vietnam, 113th.

Overall, this is a poor showing which puts three of the Philippines’ main rivals for tourism dollars in Asean virtually out of reach. It’s an own goal and one – given the will – that could be corrected fairly quickly. We stress the phrase “given the will”.