Much Ado about Tourists in the Open Skies Policy
The National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA) expresses its reservations regarding tourism as the end-objective of the pocket open skies policy of the Aquino Administration.
For one, the increased tourist arrival does not necessarily translate into substantial revenue for the country. For example, South Koreans who make up a substantial portion of tourist arrivals during the past few years generally uses Korean travel agencies, eats in Korean owned and operated restaurants, and stays in Korean-owned establishment. That Baguio is called Little Korea must mean something. This is a far cry from what government officials sees as the Thai paradigm where tourists actually consume, eat and spend top dollars for Thai products, Thai resorts and Thai food.
Two, bloating the tourist arrival figures today are Chinese businessmen shuttling from Xiamen to Manila bringing in goods for sale in Divisoria and other places. (Divisoria is now almost exclusively the preserve of Chinese businessmen from Xiamen shuttling from China to Manila.) Opening up more ports of entry for these type of “tourists” can mean more smuggled goods and more Filipino industries failing due to unabated smuggling. Is the Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Immigration up to the tasks of guarding several more points of entry?
Thirdly, opening up completion without reciprocity will disadvantage local carriers against foreign carriers which have strong financial and other forms of economic support from their government. It is not too farfetched to imagine that with an open skies policy, we will soon see the end of local carriers and have Singapore Airways and Cathay Pacific lording it over our own skies.
Having an open skies policy to draw in tourists is akin to placing the cart before the horse. Let our local carriers develop first in fair competition amongst themselves with the advantage due Filipino local carriers.