The tourism department is scrambling to manage the incredible damage done to the Philippines by the Maguindanao massacre that included the murder of 14 journalists, and has appealed to foreign governments to moderate their travel advisories.
Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said what they are trying to have for the inevitable travel advisories are for foreign governments to be “specific and accurate” in their advisories on trips to the Philippines.
He recalled that in the last five years, Western countries have been issuing travel advisories against the Philippines when there are natural and man-made calamities, including terror bombings in Mindanao, devastation from typhoons and similar
With the overwhelming international distress caused by the Maguindanao atrocity, “We want that this incident be treated as an isolated case” by the foreign governments and for them not to issue a blanket advisory for the entire Philippines.
“Of course, we cannot stop [foreign governments] from issuing travel advisories, that’s their responsibility to their citizens. But we urge them to specify the areas of their travel advisories,” he added.
He said the Tourism department has been countering travel advisories with diplomacy tours every year. “These tours are aimed at making the diplomats aware of the realities on the ground…that Central Mindanao remains safe.”
His worry is based on the fact that a seriously bad image of the Philippines in international tourism and financial markets would endanger the more than P5 billion in foreign direct investments and another $5 billion annual gross income from tourist spending.
Durano said a total of $15 billion in investments are scheduled to come next year in the form of high-end hotels in The Fort in Taguig City, including a Grand Hyatt and another Shangri-La hotel.
Samie Lim, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) who represented the private sector goals in tourism programs, said the 5-million target new jobs in the tourism sector has not been achieved in the last five years, with only 3.8 million jobs created since 2004.