Tourism secretary Ace Durano reported on Thursday the Philippines received 3.14 million foreign tourists last year, significantly lower than its 3.5 million target.
Durano said he expects the trend to continue and the industry to post a flat growth this year with continuing decline in arrivals.
Civil Aeronautics Board executive director Carmelo Arcilla has predicted that the Philippines would most likely feel the decreasing number in air travel in the first quarter of 2009.
Arcilla said that based on the airlines’ indications, the Philippines has yet to feel the full effect of the global financial crisis.
He added that after the peak travel season is over, airline industries will feel the pinch.
Samie Lim, immediate past president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said the government should build infrastructure for Philippine tourism for the industry to survive the global economic crisis and come out stronger when it is over.
Durano said his department is signing an agreement with the Philippine Councilors’ League aimed at training local legislators on how to market their localities to domestic and foreign tourists.
Lim said there is a need for new roads, bridges and ports that will open up new tourist destinations.
He added that the adoption of open-skies policy might not be the answer to weather the economic crunch, saying only a slight opening of the Philippine aviation is required.
The PCCI leader’s position and recommendation echo the proposals of the chairman emeritus of the National Association of Independent Tourist Agencies, Robert Lim Joseph.