According to the Department of Tourism, four million tourists traveled to the Philippines in 2011, with a majority of them coming from countries like Korea, the United States, and Japan. While the statistics may be enough reason for some to rejoice—especially since it’s significantly higher than the previous year’s 3.5 million visitors—the Philippines still lags behind some of its Asian neighbors like Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore which are bringing in over 20 million tourists a year.
“Tourism is the next sunrise industry,” says Samie Lim, president of the Canadian Tourism and Hospitality Institute (CTHI) in Mandaluyong City. “And this is something that Filipinos are very good at. We are well-known for being a caring and hospitable people and we have world class beaches around the country. When you put all of that together, then you can make a business out of tourism.”
Lim isn’t really a stranger to business. As the founder and chairman emeritus of the Philippine Franchise Association, as well as the chairman emeritus of the Philippine Retailers Association, his moniker “Father of Franchising in the Philippines” is a testament to his years of helping the country’s franchising scene and individual brands grow to the magnitude that it is now. But it was perhaps his stint as chairman for tourism under (and later as president of ) the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) that opened his eye to the country’s tourism industry, or lack thereof.
“We are well known for being a caring and hospitable people and we have world class beaches around the country. When you put all of that together, then you can make a business out of tourism.”
According to Lim, “there is a very simple ratio that says for every one tourist, you will need one Filipino worker.” And with the country’s goal of bringing in 10 million tourists for 2012, “that means that we’ll need 6 million new workers.” The dilemma now lies in where to get those workers. “Unfortunately, if you don’t have trained tourism and hospitality workers, there’s that possibility of having, for example, an engineering graduate becoming a front desk clerk at a hotel, or a nursing graduate doing housekeeping. And that just isn’t right. People need to know the difference between a job and a career. The latter is the most important,” says Lim. And while many schools in the country offer tourism and hospitality classes, not all are recognized by institutions around the world. For some, the programs are fleeting and insufficiently prepared, catering only to what is currently on trend. “They don’t really know what they’re doing,” says Lim. Realizing this dearth in the tourism and hospitality industry, Lim set himself to work to bringing a standard into the country.
“The key to keeping people is to tell them what their career will be, and not just tell them their job. The most important thing is to show them that they have a future in your company—what is in there for them for the future and not just now.”