TRAVEL and tourism are today the biggest contributor to Philippine economic growth.
It had long been the impression of many that the country’s development is largely the result of its commerce and industry and the output of its mines and its farms. But we seem to have lagged in these traditional sources of national wealth. Instead we have moved forward very strongly in developing our human resources – our millions of people who, in an earlier age, we had feared would hold back national progress because of their huge numbers.
A report released last week on a study sponsored by American Express, an international organization of the private sector, said Philippine travel and tourism contributed $82 billion to the Philippine economy in 2018, for a 24.7 percent share in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Agriculture was still the leading provider of employment, with 31.1 percent, according to the American Express study, but travel and tourism have moved up to second with 26.4 percent. Retail is at 20.4 percent and construction at 15.7 percent.
An earlier report in April by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on various sectors’ contributions to GDP said services accounted for 57.8 percent; industries 34.1 percent; and agriculture, hunting, forestry, and fishing (AHFF) 8.1 percent.
These figures confirm how much progress we have achieved in our economic development largely through the efforts of our people. Today, we number over 108 million people and, far from becoming a burden, they have proved to be a driving force for national growth.
Millions of Filipinos are working today in countries around the globe – professionals like doctors, engineers, nurses, and teachers, construction workers, as well as caregivers and household helpers. They have been generally welcomed wherever they have gone, appreciated not just for their ability in their work but also for their ability to live with their foreign host communities.
Only about two weeks ago, the Yukon territory of Canada signed an agreement with our Department of Labor and Employment for the deployment of 2,000 skilled workers, including heavy equipment operators, engineers, nurses, caregivers, and many other workers, along with their families.
And now we find that our national travel and tourism industry has grown to become the largest economic sector in the country, contributing one-fourth of the GDP. We may not be able to develop our industries and our farms as swiftly as we want, but we have found we are good in tourism and services. This we will gladly develop, led by our Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, for we already have the people and the sights and the services to attend to the increasing millions of visitors to our historic and beautiful islands.