To further encourage education and involvement in Philippine politics, the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management’s School Government, in partnership with the ADLAW Political Party, launched an online webinar titled “KAMALAYAN: Politics in the Field of HRIM” last March 20 via Zoom.
The first of the two speakers was Ms. Jem Macaiah Turla, Senior Tourism Operations Officer of the International Relations Division of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and alumna of the Consular and Diplomatic Affairs program in the College.
She presented a comprehensive overview of Philipppine tourism in numbers and statistics, citing that according to the DOT’s 2019 Tourism Industry Performance, the industry contributed approximately P2.5 trillion to the Philippine economy, which is 12.7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP.)
Furthermore, there were approximately 8.2 million international arrivals from 2019. Statistics also showed 5.7 million workers employed in the industry in 2019, which is 14 out of 10 jobs.
After an in-depth explanation of what DOT’s International Relations Division does, which includes developing and strengthening arrangements for treaties and cooperations, and essential plans and laws that further bolster their programs, Ms. Turla then delved into the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the worldwide tourism industry, as gathered by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
“[The pandemic not only] brought forth a reduction in visitor arrivals, but also in investment opportunities,” she said, citing that the industry saw a 74% decrease in international tourist arrivals. Furthermore, the Asia and the Pacific Region were the most affected, as tourism is a major contributor to many of these countries’ GDPs.
On a national scale, the Philippines ranks as the third most vulnerable destination.
Moreover, DOT and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) conducted a survey in 2020, exploring the effects of COVID-19 on Philippine tourism. Among the top concerns were the financial and operational impact, decline in tourism demand, and decrease in tourism confidence.
However, despite these negative effects, Ms. Turla was quick to acknowledge the resilience of the Philippine tourism industry, with DOT’s immediate response to assist tourists by arranging sweeper flights and establishing an online response team and capacity development.
DOT also partnered with other companies and departments to establish partnerships to help displaced tourism workers find alternative employment and to provide technical assistance to local public hospitals. The department also advocates tourism education and training.
“I know it’s more expensive to travel right now, but if you have any plans of travelling, you may want to consider the Philippines first before going abroad,” Ms. Turla encouraged the audience.
She then ended her talk with showing more tourism videos that encouraged visitors to return to the beautiful Philippine culture and beauty.
“Even if we are struggling, even if we are faced with a lot of difficulties, we will overcome as one, and I still strongly believe that it’s more fun in the Philippines. [...] We’re not just doing this to create videos. This marketing campaign also helps spread awareness to our frontliners, [as] a salute to them, and [to showcase] the importance of the tourism industry,” Ms. Turla said.
“Boat men, our housekeeping... These people are very important parts of the tourism industry, and you should be proud that you're part of this sector. Not only as a contributor to the GDP, but also as a contributor to the wellbeing of our communities.”
Power in today’s youth
The second part of the seminar featured Kamille Olaño, the Convener for Botong Benildyano 2022 and a student from Benilde’s School of Diplomacy and Governance.
Olaño’s talk focused on voter empowerment, and the importance of the youth’s voice today amidst all the crisis and injustices.
She stated that her fellow peers and students from the HRIM industry would often question themselves, “How can I keep pursuing my course? What’s the use of studying tourism and culinary arts?”
However, Olaño encouraged the audience to break free from these thoughts, and instead, to be informed, be heard, and be engaged.
“You might be asking, SHRIM ako eh, why should I be caring about the government? Why [should I] think politically? It affects you as part of the youth, and it doesn't hurt to be informed. We should not cast a blind eye to what's happening to the government and country,” she urged, stating that we should not be afraid of politics.
“You're a Filipino citizen, you cannot ignore the current situation we’re in. [...] We’re already bound to what’s happening around us.”
She then brought up the topic of Halalan 2022, and how Botong Benildyano 2022 encourages Benildeans to engage in socio-political matters. The youth must register to vote if there is to be any change.
According to Olaño, only 33% of 54,363,844 voters in the country’s 2016 elections were from the youth. However, for next year’s elections, the goal is to have at least four million registrants from the youth.
Olaño then ended her talk, emboldening the students to do their part as citizens of the country.
“Will you be a bench warmer, a spectator of what will happen to the country? Let’s continue to do what is best for our country. What are you waiting for?” she questioned.