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[Herald Interview] Philippines ‘open skies’ move to make tourism cheaper: secretary

Country aims to increase accommodation in Manila by 50 percent in 3 years


The Philippines’ recent policy to spur competition among international airlines will lead to a general reduction of tourism costs there, the country’s tourism secretary said.

“Our new President (Benigno Aquino III) introduced an ‘open skies’ policy to promote competition among airlines by allowing more airlines to come in so that prices can go down,” Alberto Aldaba Lim, Secretary of Department of Tourism of the Philippines, told The Korea Herald. Lim visited Seoul over the weekend to participate in the Korea World Travel Fair, which gathered more than 480 tourism-related organizations and companies from 60 countries in COEX in southern Seoul through Sunday.

There are some 20 regular and chartered flights from Korea to the Philippines each day, including flights from Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines.

“The Civil Aeronautics Board has recently granted new permits to Korean carriers such as Air Busan, Jeju Air and Jin Air,” he said.
Alberto Aldaba Lim, Secretary of Department of Tourism of the Philippines, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)
Alberto Aldaba Lim, Secretary of Department of Tourism of the Philippines, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)

The reason Lim is actively promoting his country to the Korean travel industry is that Korea is the No. 1 tourist source market for the Philippines.

According to Lim, the number of Korean travelers to the Philippines amounted to more than 740,000 in 2010, followed by the U.S. with 600,000 and Japan with 350,000. In 2009, the U.S. was the largest source market.

He attributed the popularity of the Philippines among Korean tourists partly to Koreans’ eagerness to learn the English language.

“Koreans want to learn English and young kids bring their parents. Also, it is relatively inexpensive to travel there compared to other countries in Asia,” Lim said.

Another uniqueness of the Philippines tourism is its Spanish and American colonial heritage, he added.

“There are old churches recognized by UNESCO, old houses built during the American time and noble towns.“

Before taking office as the tourism secretary in December, Lim was deeply involved with disaster management in the private sector.

While the Philippines is prone to natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, typhoons, drought and volcanic eruptions, the government is now becoming more organized in preparing local communities to prevent disasters, he said.

“We should prepare the local community. If the community is prepared, they know where to run. If they have advance warnings, nobody has to die,” Lim said.

“Compared to 1990 when a series of bad disasters occurred, we’re beginning to do something about it. We’re buying the right equipment and scientific instruments,” he said.

Another concern for foreign travelers is security, as the use of guns is permitted in the country.

To enhance the safety and security of tourists, the Philippines National Police has created a special “tourist police” force and dispatched them in hot tourist spots in 14 cities and provinces, Lim said.

“We’re training 2,000 of them in cultural sensitivity, customer relations and emergency situations,” he said.

He also vowed to work with local governments to enhance safety for divers as some dive shops illegally give quick licenses to tourists even when they have not been properly trained.

“Some shops give you a license in one day but normally it takes three to five days to have diving lessons. We will force all diving shops to provide insurance for divers,” he said.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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