In honor of World Tourism Day, I thought I'd take a closer look at the state of tourism in the Philippines by examining the highly respected Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index for 2017, published by the World Economic Forum and chock full of insight. For instance, they report that over the last ten years, international tourism has contributed over 10% to global GDP, accounting for 1 in every 10 jobs on the planet.
This year, the Index has the Philippines ranked #79 out of the 136 countries listed for tourism, or the bottom 42nd percentile (they only rank 136 countries in the world, not the 195 or so in existence).
In fact, in 2016, the Philippines saw more than 5.3 million foreign tourists cross its borders (not counting Filipinos). The average tourist spent about $984 for each trip, which means that we received about 125 million dollars from tourism, accounting for 4.2% of the Philippines' GDP.
More than 1.2 million Filipinos also worked in tourism last year, accounting for 3.3% of all employment.
But despite the perception that the Philippines is no longer a secret among Southeast Asian backpackers and travelers, our tourism industry actually took a hit in 2016 – and will probably sink even further in 2017.
In fact, the Philippines dropped 5 places from the same report in 2016's report, when it was ranked #74 in the world for tourism (out of 141 countries listed). I'm guessing that headlines about extra-judicial killings, extremist kidnappings and beheadings have something to do with that.
Indeed, the Index reports that security concerns among tourists – from street crime to terrorism – remain extremely high in the Philippines, earning us a #126 blemish out of 136 countries.
A lack of confidence in the police, substandard quality of roads (#107), a restrictive visa policy (#60), and the fact that the Philippines government reduced their travel and tourism budget by almost half all were contributing factors.
However, there was also a lot to redeem the Philippines as a tourist destination, including the relatively low cost (#22) to travel here, the country's rich natural resources (#37), and the ease of air travel.
Within Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranks #7 out of 9 countries for tourism, falling behind Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam (in that order) and only ahead of Lao and Cambodia.
On this year's list, the Philippines sits behind Egypt, Jordan, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Bhutan (countries no. 74-78), with Kenya, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Cape Verde, and Armenia ranked behind us (#80-85).
Spain is the overall #1 ranked country on this travel and tourism index, and Japan the first Asian country listed, sitting at #4.
While I doubt the Philippines will ever reach those heights, perhaps modeling our tourism sector after Thailand (#34) is a great goal?
However you interpret the report, it's interesting data that puts tourism in the Philippines in a world context.
Originally written for my weekly Dumaguete MetroPost newspaper column.