Right after our Tourism Summit, I took some of my friends who are entrepreneurs, and their families, to explore the Philippine islands so that they could see first-hand the unique potential of our tourism industry.
Every summer, for the past 20 years, I have taken my family to new destinations around the archipelago. Last year, we explored Coron, Palawan. This year, we headed to Busuanga, Palawan, which is just beside Coron. The airport is conveniently situated in Busuanga, and there are plans to turning it into an international airport by extending the runway. This year, Club Paradise – now owned by the Discovery Group – served as our base. This is one of the best resorts, in my opinion, in the area. It has one of the best beaches, with amazing coral formations and exciting marine life – from baby sharks, stingrays, and turtles!
Our guests, Hans and Carol Sy, could not believe the beauty of the place. They were amazed that at exactly 6:30 in the evening, thousands of fruit bats come out and fly to the mainland, returning at dawn the next day. This was something Boracay experienced in its early years.
Getting Hans and my busy entrepreneur friends out of their comfort zone was a bit of a challenge, but they could not refuse the call and allure of the crystal-clear waters. They spent a good hour enjoying themselves out in nature.
While touring us around the town, our driver told us that the community was doing well thanks to the many tourists from China, Korea, and Europe. This is great news considering that the current airport is not yet up to standards. Hopefully, with the plans to upgrade it, there will be more hotels, hostels, and other accommodations that will be established as well.
As raised in our recent Tourism Summit 2019, we can empower locals to become entrepreneurs. Just like how Airbnb has provided thousands of choices for every traveler, depending on their preferences, many people can turn their houses, vacation homes, and resorts into businesses. But while smaller bed and breakfast accommodations are a great ‘disruptor’ and offer greater opportunity for business growth, both Arthur Lopez from the Philippine Hotel Owners Association and Oudet Souvannavong of ASEAN BAC Laos agreed that there must regulation to ensure the safety of every tourist.
Aside from accommodations, another important part of the tourism industry are the attractions and activities which can convince tourists to come back. Providing a whole and complete vacation experience to travelers is important. Tourists will more likely return to a place if the experience and services are stellar. Aside from the natural attractions, activities also contribute to the growth of an area. For example, Palawan has beautiful beaches and rich coral reefs, which is why it offers scuba diving, snorkeling, and island-hopping. Even Boracay has different water activities, perfect for any age group.
Tourism is the most inclusive sector as it also helps boost other industries such as medical/ beauty tourism, culinary tourism, and agri-tourism, among others. While we have existing businesses related to these industries, we have not promoted them well to the global market. For example, Thailand is known not just for its stunning beaches and culture, but also for its medical tourism. Many tourists travel to Thailand for body enhancements and cosmetic surgery. Perhaps, by working closely with our skilled doctors and medical associations, we can also build and highlight this industry.
Restaurateur Gaita Fores had shared how our culinary tourism is attracting visitors from abroad. She said, “It is actually a real blessed time for us, because food tourism has become infectious globally.” According to her, it’s important to know what is trending among the younger generation, and match their excitement with new offerings.
These are some of the great points raised during the summit. We all learned that tourism is, in fact, a great driver of the economy. That is why we all need to work harder together and create an economy that would welcome every entrepreneur and contribute to the booming tourism industry.