FOR those in the hospitality industry, the 12.14 percent growth in tourists in Central Visayas can only mean good things.
Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants Association of Cebu (HRRAC) president Hans Hauri said such a performance meant the industry managed to do well despite obstacles it faced the previous year.
Hauri admitted that the country’s issues with China over the Scarborough Shoal have affected tourists from China, while the black level advisory in Hong Kong that has remained since a hostage-taking claimed lives in Manila in 2010 means tour operators there cannot advertise the Philippines as a destination.
“But people came here, anyway. In general, any double-digit figure is an exciting result,” he said.
He noted that the growth figure, put against the world’s 4.5 percent tourism growth, makes them grateful that the industry can perform that well when the global tourism industry did not grow as much.
He had the well-performing Korean economy to thank for the continued expansion of the Korean tourist market. He also noted an increasing market in Russian tourists and neighbors from Southeast Asia.
Hauri cited the improved air connections to Cebu as the reason for an increase in Russian tourists, saying they can easily visit Cebu by flying to Hong Kong, Singapore, the Middle East, Thailand and Korea, which all have direct flights to Cebu. He said that without such flits, some tourists will find it too tiresome to switch from one airport to the next to reach Cebu.
He also noted that the upcoming Asean integration will benefit the industry, as policies toward neighboring countries will allow freer movement among Asean states.
Hauri credits President Benigno Aquino III for the boost in the country’s tourism, saying the words of a leader are powerful and influential to make sure those in government work to improve things that affect tourism.
He noted the policies that the government has been putting in place to help the industry, such as moving flights to Clark to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and the improvement of other airports to decongest airports in Cebu and Davao.
A hurdle that the government needs to fix is the country’s visa system. Hauri said that even if some countries are afforded visa-free privileges, he believes it is not enough to open up the market.
He said that if the country wants to reach its goal of 10 million tourists by 2016, it should allow online visa applications and visa-on-arrival processes.
He also hopes the government can work on improving its air safety standards to raise the country’s level to category one to attract more airlines.