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DOT Secretary challenges businessmen to take a leap of faith and invest in tourism infrastructure

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. (second from right) is given a token by officials of Bohol and the host chamber, for gracing the opening program of the 21st Visayas Area Business Conference on September 14 in the morning at the Bohol Tropics Resort in Tagbilaran. Left to right: Norris Oculam, region 7 governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.; Marietta Sarabia-Gasatan, president of the Bohol Chamber; Francis Monera, vice-president of PCCI-Visayas, Bohol Governor Edgar M. Chatto and wife Pureza who is also the conference director of the event. Beside Jimenez on the right is PCCI president Miguel B. Varela.

TAGBILARAN, BOHOL – Tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. today challenged business leaders in the Visayas gathered at the 21st Business Conference hosted by the Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry here at the Bohol Tropics Resort to take a leap of faith and rethink about the old business mindset that “nobody builds ahead of the demand” and take the contrary approach.
“I have news for you. The demand is here and now”, he told the businessmen, mostly presidents of the various chambers from the three Visayan regions and some coming from Mindanao. In fact, he said, Shangrila, one of the top hotel chains in the world, has just acquired its 7th property in the country indicating its confidence that the tourism industry in the Philippines will continue to grow.
He said that the Visayas cluster is considered the country’s number one growth center as far as tourism is concerned, and reminded that “tourism is a people’s business”. He said it was people-centric and while other businesses are gearing to automation, tourism will always need real people to serve its various needs.
Citing statistics, Jimenez said that in 2011, the country registered 3.9-million foreign tourists. They also recorded 29.9-million domestic trips, which indicates that domestic tourists are visiting various places in the country.
“Do we have the rooms to accommodate these tourists?”, he posed. “Theoretically, we have enough for now”, he pointed out, adding that if only foreign tourists are taken into consideration, “they book ahead of time” hence there is no worry that they will have no roofs over their heads when they arrive here.
On the contrary, locals who are now travelling more between the islands, usually do it spur-of-the-moment. Thus, he said, the “need for 3-star, 2-star and good hostels” for the local domestic market. Small hotels and inns are just among the investment areas that local businessmen can venture into, he pointed out, aside from other tourist service oriented businesses.
Jimenez also expressed optimism that under the Aquino administration, they can hit their target of attracting 10-million tourist arrivals by 2016. “With a national tourism plan, we have now the most complete database of everything touristic in the country” and the list is growing, he pointed out.
The idea, he said, is to connect high growth areas and already developed destinations with the less known places, hence the clustering approach. It is aimed at introducing new destinations as well as to entice the tourists to stay longer, and make repeat visits.
He also delivered good news to Bohol officials present like Governor Edgar M. Chatto and Tagbilaran vice-mayor Nuevas Tirol-Montes who represented Mayor Dan Lim, saying that the Asian Development Bank has chosen Bohol as its laboratory for “jobs matching and training ground for the tourism industry” in the country.
He also lauded the elected officials of Bohol and its people for pursuing its vision to become a combined ecological, heritage and adventure destination.
He said that Bohol’s success story did not happen because they depended on their physical or financial capability in maximizing the province’s potential and sustain its growth, but through “the strength of will and clarity of their vision”. “They are the ones who decided to take the long road to tourism without anything but the dreams of their leaders and the cooperation of the people of Bohol”, he said, saying that Bohol’s success epitomizes “the power of the people” to bring the change they look for.
Jimenez said that following Bohol’s formula to success, and its rosy future in tourism, “ the question to ask people in business is, are you ready to invest in that enthusiasm?”
The tourism secretary also admitted that he reserved visiting Bohol “until I was confirmed as a gesture of respect to a very extremely successful province” in terms of tourism development.
Jimenez, the man behind the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan, was the keynote speaker of the Visayas Chamber Convention. This year’s theme is “Visayas: Maximizing Potentials and Opportunities for Sustained Growth”. By Lalaine M. Jimenea

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