Local tourism execs: More programs from DOT’s new chief

By Jose Santino S. Bunachita |May 09,2018 - 09:58 PM

WITH Cebu and Central Visayas’ tourism efforts gaining ground over the past several years, local stakeholders hope for more programs from the new leadership of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

The Hotels, Resorts, Restaurants Association of Cebu (HRRAC) is looking forward to hear from newly appointed DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on her thrusts especially for Cebu.

“The industry is looking forward to this new leadership of maximizing our potential as a premier tourist destination. Not only this, but also a leadership that will be capable of adjusting to constant change in the industry by coming up with different programs that will further enhance and strengthen our tourism as a country,” said HRRAC President Carlo Suarez.

Puyat was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as the new DOT Secretary following the controversial resignation of former Secretary Wanda Teo.

She is currently the undersecretary for administration, agribusiness and marketing, and regional engagement of the Department of Agriculture (DA), a post she has held since July 2017.

Prior to that, Puyat also served as DA undersecretary for special concerns during the Aquino administration and a consultant at the Presidential Management Staff under the Arroyo administration.

Suarez said they hope that the DOT, under Puyat’s leadership should be updated with industry improvements in order for the country to maintain its place in international tourism.

“We are also expecting that this leadership is well-versed about tourism in order to carry out projects that are beneficial for the growth of our economy,” he added.

Collaboration, insights

While changes in the DOT would not directly affect private stakeholders, the Cebu Association of Tour Operation Specialists (CATOS) still highlighted the need for all sectors to collaborate.

CATOS President Alice Queblatin said though that they hope to get to know the visions of Puyat for the DOT.

“We look forward to meeting the new DOT secretary, get new insights on what the department wants to do in the midst of major tourism crises like Boracay, and other beach destinations in the country,” she said.

Teo submitted her resignation to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea before the Cabinet meeting in Malacanang last Monday where Teo and President Duterte also had a “long talk.”

The embattled Teo was embroiled in a controversy after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged a P60-million deal between the DOT and People’s Television for the placement of advertisements in a show produced by Teo’s brother Ben Tulfo under Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. (BMUI). The show, “Kilos Pronto,” was cohosted by Teo’s other brother Erwin.

Teo’s resignation was accepted by President Duterte last Tuesday, the same day he appointed Puyat as new secretary.

In a post on its official Facebook page, the DOT said Puyat is an advocate of farm and culinary tourism “as evidenced in the DA’s strong partnership with the DOT’s Madrid Fusion Manila and Farm Tourism initiatives.

“The incoming Secretary’s expertise and experience present an advantage in steering the industry and promoting the Philippines as a premiere tourist destination,” the post further read.

Farm tourism is part of the thrusts earlier announced by Teo who was also pushing for faith tourism in the country.

Puyat is also expected to push for culinary tourism, a thrust that Queblatin sees a lot of promise for Cebu.

“Cebu will feature prominently, we hope , in the new Secretary’s thrust on Culinary Tours! We eagerly await this!” said Queblatin.

Despite possible changes in visions and programs, Queblatin said they do not see any direct impact on the region’s tourism plans.

“While policy directions come from the DOT, the private sector like the tour operators, make their individual strategies, targets, marketing, product development, pricing, to generate business,” she said.

Queblatin pointed out that the private stakeholders need the DOT’s help in promotions of tourism destinations, facilities, and services although strong collaborations from different sectors has also taught them not to solely depend on government for these matters.

“The consultative approach and proactive relationship with Regional Director of DOT-7 Shalimar Tamano and the rest of the DOT-7 staff, gives CATOS the support and confidence in the continuous growth of tourism in Cebu,” she added.

For this part, DOT Central Visayas Regional Director Shalimar Tamano said they are expecting to be called for a meeting in Manila with other regions by the new secretary.

He said they expect programs and thrusts to be discussed during the meeting.

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