Saturday, November 1, 2008

Philippines tourism coming of age

Commentators have long commented on the potential for the Philippines tourism industry - identifying it as one of the 4 pillar industries apart from mining, agriculture, call centres & other outsourced business services. First tourism has had to overcome a number of problems:
1. Terrorism - For the last 35 years the Philippines has had a number of civil conflicts going on, whether its the Muslim Successionists of Mindanao in the south, Communists in the mountains - the NPA or bombs being detonated in airports and shopping malls. These incidents are bound to keep tourists away, even though lesser incidents of robbery and shootings might be overlooked.
2. Infrastructure - The Philippines still lacks an adequate level of infrastructure. The consequence is that tourists confront alot of pollution, traffic congestion, poor access to sites of interest and poor connections.
3. Service Culture - There is a poor standard of service culture in the Philippines, and it extends from the management of the country's biggest companies down to the lowest staff. Filipinos are under-trained and basically display little acumen for work. They have a sense of entitlement and place social relationships above work contractual undertakings.
4. Disclosure: I remenber when I first came to the Philippines. I could find only one brochure on the country, and said very little. The only sites seemed to be some very average beaches and churches, Nothing much has changed in this respect. I dont get the sense that the Philippines is creating a culture of distinction. This is not for government, but they can support improvements in education and training.
But this last year I am starting to see that the Philippines government is starting to pick up its spending on tourism, and they are increasing regional capital works programs to boost regional tourist jobs and develop new tourist based businesses, whether its deep ocean fishing, whitewater rafting, cultural centres promoting local artists or exports. It is encouraging, but there is still alot of work to be done. Perhaps the most important change is shifting the minds of Filipinos, to improve their attitude to work. They are really diluted into thinking their country is ok.