The DOT: a national planning and marketing for local initiatives
We were very impatient to do this interview. The Department Of Tourism (DOT) supports local tourism projects, is in charge of accreditations, marketing and collection of data and statistic reports about tourism. During these 3 months, we have noticed some of the strengths and weaknesses of the DOT while working with community-based tourism and ecotourism projects. After the interview of the DOT of Region 8 (Samar & Leyte), it was very important for us to have a meeting with the national DOT to have a wider perspective. We had the chance, last Sunday, to be able to ask our questions to Rolando Canizal, the Director of the Planning, Research and Information Management Office of the DOT.
The DOT played an active part in the implementation of the National Ecotourism Strategy (NES) in 2002, which ended this year. The plan instituted the notion of ecotourism in the country and raised the main issues to deal with. While a new version of this plan is being made, the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2011-2016 chose the notion of sustainable tourism as its main driving force . The goal of the NTDP is to develop « an environmentally and socially responsible tourism that delivers more widely distributed income and employment opportunities ».
By 2016, the plan is expecting 10 million foreign tourists (3.52 in 2010), 35.5 million domestic tourists (27.9 in 2010) and a tourism share of the GDP of 8.1% (against 5.76% in 2010). To reach these targets, investments must be made in infrastructures (airports, roads), tourism products must be developed and the role of local governments clarified.
We don’t want to lose you or be too soporific, so we will stop here with the tourism numbers and facts and will discuss some specific issues of the DOT related to sustainable tourism.
Firstly, guidelines for the conservation of the environment and for the creation of protected areas were widely discussed, but now the DOT should focus on entrepreneurship and also on skills needed to create and manage a business at the local level, so that municipalities would have tools to better develop their products. The DOT will offer more training on entrepreneurship with the help of international organizations such as CIDA (Canada), JICA (Japan) and GTZ (Germany).
Secondly, ecotourism accreditations should be reinforced (only 4 accreditations for now) by a better explanation of requirements and gains for tourism operators. The DOT has not yet come out with a list of the sustainable tourism initiatives in the country and with a guidelines manual.
Thirdly, the relationships with Local Governments Units (LGUs) have to be clarified. LGUs must be active in the development of their own tourism products and they should not wait for the DOT to handle everything. Concerning Community-Based Tourism (CBT), the role of LGUs is to support the local initiatives and to protect them from competition, but not to manage CBT projects, otherwise it won’t be sustainable (we already talked about it in previous articles). In addition, LGUs should facilitate administrative formalities for the private sector. It often happens that local and national procedures are contradictory and very complex, discouraging the investors.
Lastly, to have a better understanding of the impact of sustainable tourism and of the improvement possibilities , the data collection should be more efficient and reliable. The DOT already offers some training for the LGUs on statistics reports. However, accommodation facilities are still reluctant to provide comprehensive data on their visitors’ arrivals for fear of higher taxation or display of confidential information.
The DOT is not running out of work but is lacking workers: with a very limited budget, the DOT has not enough resources. For example, Malaysia has a budget of US$ 80 million for tourism marketing while the Philippines has only US$ 10 million. Nevertheless, the DOT launched a marketing campaign using humor and the headline « It’s more fun in the Philippines » through social networks. This campaign was not very expensive and its participative aspect (everyone can join the campaign) ensured its success.
We were not able to meet the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources so we end our 3 months research on this interview that allowed us to put in a national perspective to the local issues we noticed on field.