CEBU CITY – President Macapagal-Arroyo told local and foreign representatives at an international tourism forum here Wednesday to look beyond the global economic crisis and keep faith in tourism as a powerful tool to fight poverty.
Ms Arroyo said she believed that tourism development could create jobs and generate sources of livelihood.
“Global economic realities threaten the fight to reduce poverty worldwide. But we must stay hopeful. Let us keep our faith in tourism as a powerful instrument to alleviate poverty,” the President said in her speech on Wednesday afternoon.
The President was speaking during the 6th International Tourism Forum for Parliamentarians and Local Authorities (ITF-PLA) held at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City.
Ms Arroyo said the global economic crisis was responsible for driving up the prices of food, fuel and rice around the world and people should be protected from its impact.
“Costly commodity imports like oil and rice should be offset by commodity exports, hard commodities like primary products, and soft ones like leisure, eco and medical tourism,” she said.
Ms Arroyo emphasized that even in previous global meltdowns, tourism remained strong, pointing out that even after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, tourist arrivals in the country remained high.
Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) countries also suffered terrorist attacks, such as what happened in Bali, Indonesia, and faced health scares, such the SARS epidemic, but inbound visitors to the Asean region have continued to increase, she said.
However, the President stressed that issues that influence the strategic direction of global tourism must be addressed, such as climate change, the role of women and the relationship between tourism and poverty.
“Let us therefore look beyond the difficulties posed by the current global economic slowdown. Let us address the major issues which will continue to influence the strategic directions of global tourism,” she said.
While pushing for tourism development, the President said protecting environment should also be prioritized to address the climate change issue. An example of this is the Green Philippines program aimed at protecting rich coral areas.