Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Tourism growth, led by a better-than-expected increase in domestic travel, is set to contribute more to overall economic expansion this year, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said at the Philippine Economic Briefing on Wednesday.
Jimenez said tourism accounted for about 7 percent of the total economy in 2012. With anticipated increases in domestic tourists as well as incoming foreign tourists, the sector is expected to account for 11 percent of the economy by 2016.
More importantly, Jimenez said, tourism could account for 18 to 20 percent of employment nationwide by the end of President Aquino's term.
Locally, Jimenez said the Philippines has surpassed its target of 35.5 million passengers by 2016. "We already had 37.5 million domestic trips in 2012," he said.
Given the record last year, he said President Aquino has approved a new target of 44 million domestic trips by 2016.
The challenge, according to Jimenez, was to build the right infrastructure to accommodate tourism growth. He said that the tourism sector expected about 7,000 new rooms to be built from this year to 2014.
However, even at this pace, Jimenez said there would still be a gap of more than 20,000 rooms by 2016.
On the other requirements, he said there was a "devoted budget annually for tourism roads and infrastructure, a program we have with DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways)."
Tourism is one of the growth drivers identified by the Aquino administration as a job generator that could make growth inclusive by spreading income opportunities to the countryside.