SENATOR Joel Villanueva on Tuesday welcomed the positive forecasts for the Philippine tourism industry by the latest economic impact report from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and said that the Filipino tourism workforce should be ready to address the resurgence of the sector.
Villanueva urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to develop a roadmap with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for the training, upskilling, and reskilling programs to address the surge of demand for tourism jobs in the country.
The senator also proposed that this roadmap should be part of the next update of DOT’s National Tourism Development Plan.
“This is a time for us to step up our tourism game, as neighboring countries are also opening up their travel destinations. The tourism industry should remind the world of the top-class Filipino brand of hospitality by upgrading its workforce,” Villanueva said.
In a press conference last week, the WTTC forecasted an average annual growth rate of 6.7% over the next ten years for the country’s tourism industry, exceeding the expected 5.6% overall average growth rate for the Philippine economy.
The WTTC also sees employment in the local tourism sector growing annually by an average of 3% over the next ten years, generating 2.9 million new jobs and accounting for 21.5% of all jobs in the country.
The author and sponsor of Republic Act No. 11230, or the “Tulong Trabaho Act”, said that the tourism sector can get the reinforcements through skills training programs offered by TESDA.
“The tourism industry can take part of the P1.515 billion we have allotted this year for the Tulong Trabaho Fund to address the training needs of our workforce. This way, we can remain globally competitive and responsive to the demands of this priority industry,” Villanueva said.
The senator also called on the Department of Health (DOH) to include tourism workers as a priority sector for vaccination booster shots against COVID-19 as they are “economic frontliners” for the country.
Villanueva appealed to national and local health authorities to enforce pandemic protocols, especially in tourist spots, and noted that “health workers have become a crucial part of the tourism industry.”
The DOT reported about 272,000 foreign arrivals from Feb. 10 to April 17 as the country opened up to more international tourists with lowered pandemic alert levels.
In addition, Villanueva sought the help of the Small Business Corporation under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to fast track the support for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the travel and tourism sector through the continuous and uninterrupted processing of loan applications for the P4 billion allocation under Bayanihan 2 Act.
“Supporting our MSMEs and skills development are crucial in the reemergence of the tourism sector from the pandemic. It’s now a matter of implementation for the current administration and continuity for the upcoming administration,” the senator said.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that, as of 2021, around 49,368 MSMEs in the accommodations and food service activities industry are considered permanently closed, while 13,756 are temporarily closed.