Tourism Gold Rush

For the past 20 years, the tourism sector has been pretty upbeat. Visitor arrivals have been making huge leaps, posting double digit growth rates of 20.14% in 2004 and 14.48% in 2005. With this kind of growth rate, which is expected to accelerate further, we have started to experience shortages in hotel rooms and lodging facilities in different destinations. The opportunities in the tourism industry are so huge, and it’s not just the balikbayans and their groups who are filling this market, but new generation of visitors. For 2006, the number has totaled to 2,843,345, with the bulk of tourists coming from Korea (20.12%) and US (19.95%).

From the Marcos era until now, these secretaries have all pushed for growing the tourism sector: From Jose Aspiras, Jose Gonzales, Peter Garrucho, Rafael Alunan III, Narzalina Lim, Vicente Carlos, Eduardo Pilapil, Evelyn Pantig, Mina Gabor, Gemma Cruz-Araneta, Richard Gordon, Robert Barbers to Roberto Pagdanganan. And now under the current DOT Secretary Ace Durano’s leadership, the tourism industry has been registering good performance and I believe many would agree to give credit to the aggressive and more relevant marketing efforts of the current Secretary.

Last year, we promoted different business models from franchising to business models in technology, which require more creativity and ingenuity. Technonegosyo presented very promising business models, especially in the services sector such as Internet centers and website design. The other bright spot of the Philippines is the tourism industry, and contrary to what people think, it does not require a lot of capital to start a business in tourism. This is why we decided to mount the Tourism Negosyo Expo starting tomorrow, March 2, 3 and 4 at the Music Hall SM Mall of Asia.

We are fortunate to have the principal movers behind this Tourism Negosyo Expo, Together with Tourism Secretary Durano, lead Go Negosyo advocates are actively involved in the preparation as they are also passionate in pushing for the growth of the tourism sector- credit to Governor Lray Villafuerte of Camarines Sur (who has put his province in the world map of wake boarding and other adventure sports), Vivienne Tan of the Entrepreneurship School of Asia, and the dynamic DTI Undersecretary Carissa Cruz-Evangelista, who is the key proponent of One-Town-One-Product program which includes tourism-oriented products and services.

We believe that money can be made in this area as we see more tourists coming from Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan and other neighboring countries. We don’t even need to focus on the European and USA markets, they will eventually come as they hear about and see the wonderful beaches we have here. The Airline Employees Cooperative, who are the founders of Asian Spirit, have started to focus on areas like Boracay, Palawan and have brought tourists there, and it has been the most profitable route ever since. All of us have ancestral homes that we can convert to bed and breakfast quarters. My parents have a place in Balai Taal, Tagaytay, which was initially intended for family use but now is being rented out to a lot of families who seek tranquility. They just have to be in a good location that tourists would love. My wife also got into the tourism business with a dive shop called Pacifica and they create unique dive packages for the foreign market. Maybe one day my dream of setting up an expedition yacht chartering business to cater to the foreign market and see the beautiful islands of the Philippines will come true. One can also set up unique souvenir shops or a spa or special food products that the tourists would enjoy.

We plan to bring the entire tourism ecosystem in Tourism Negosyo, and here you will be able to see where to hire trained spa professionals, restaurant chefs, where to find recreational sports such as dive shops and even find the wild life animal kingdom of Robert Yupangco, who is an entrepreneur who provides a different type of tourist attraction. The schools that focus on hotel and restaurant management will also be there, and this is a good source of talent for either your ancestral home or the hotel that you plan to put up. If you just have 10 thousand pesos in your pocket as capital, you can start a T-shirt and souvenir-making business just like Island Souvenirs owner Jay Aldeguer. Just keep in mind that you have to be different and creative in this field. While I was in the US last week, I was amazed to see the new T-shirts being made today. The level of creativity in designing T-shirts and the quality of material there has never stopped to improve.

If you want to focus on transportation services, you can look at what Hyundai Pro Negosyo Starex van has to offer. Hyundai will showcase in the Expo some Negosyo ideas for their Starex vans. But you should make your transport van service different. Do it the way Cebu Air started. For them the drivers are the key. They served as the tour guides, properly trained with costumes and excellent service. Just don’t copy what is being done and be different.

One of the highlights of the event will be the awarding of the most inspiring tourism entrepreneurs who were selected (from a list of submitted nominees) by the Tourism Negosyo convenors Undersecretary Evangelista, Governor Villafuerte, Vivienne, Secretary Durano and myself. The awardees are: Jay Aldeguer (Island Souvenirs), Anton Carag (AEPI Inc.- white water rafting lead proponent), Conrado Escudero (Villa Escudero), Ralph Espino (Aquamundo Sports- specializes in diving and equipment), Jomar Fleres (offers “hilot” in Sanctuario Spa), Evangeline Garcia (Callos Spa Farm and Resort), Ariel Jersey (EZ Maps), Joaquin Po (Airline Employees Cooperative/Asian Spirit), Jose Mari del Rosario (Microtel Inns and Suites), Vicky Wallace (Bohol Bee Farm) and Robert Yupangco (Zoobic Safari Adventures). Their success stories are a testament to the Filipino entrepreneurial spirit and the vast business opportunities in the tourism industry. Their stories serve as proof that yes, there is money in tourism and you don’t need to start a business that requires a huge capital. As the country continues to create good publicity on top of business people coming in, they will surely bring in their families to visit. So make your bet now and invest in the Philippines’ Tourism Negosyo. Go Negosyo!