Breaking Travel News speaks to Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, minister of tourism for the Philippines, as the country is honoured with a global title at the World Travel Awards.
Breaking Travel News: Having been honoured with a regional title earlier in the year, the Philippines has gone one better and been recognised as the World’s Leading Dive Destination at the World Travel Awards. How does it feel to have taken the prestigious title?
Bernadette Romulo-Puyat: We feel very proud to be given this accolade, especially now that the Philippines is the World’s Leading Dive Destination at the World Travel Awards for the third consecutive year!
This award will further motivate our industry to do even better and ensure the protection of our marine resources.
This is not only a recognition of our unique diving and underwater attractions, but also an affirmation of our industry’s initiatives to grow and sustain the competitiveness of this product and our diving destinations.
BTN: This is the third year in succession the Philippines has been recognised as the best in the world – what is it that makes the destination so special to dive enthusiasts?
BRP: The Philippines is naturally predisposed to attract dive tourists.
Dubbed by marine experts and scientists as the centre of marine biodiversity in the world, the country is home to the highest concentration of coral reef life and astounding variety of marine species.
Moreover, the incredible biodiversity you see underwater is parallel to what you see topside.
Our country has over 300 dive sites, and more areas with new species of fish and invertebrates are constantly being discovered.
The Philippines has it all – from the smallest critters to pelagic animals, and relatively inexpensive rates compared to other locations in the world.
All in all, these conditions make it ideal to pursue hobbies and special interests for dive tourists to come and keep on coming back, such as underwater photography, technical diving, and freediving among others.
BTN: What actions is the Philippines taking to protect the natural environment in the seas around the country in order to ensure exquisite diving opportunities are available for generations to come?
BRP: Protecting our local marine resources has always been our priority with sustainable tourism being our guiding principle and core advocacy.
Many of our diving sites are categorized as protected marine sanctuaries, which means that communities surrounding these areas are engaged in the protection of marine ecosystems.
The locals of the areas understand that caring for the environment is their source of livelihood and as their legacy to the next generations.
The Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), an attached agency of the department of tourism, formulates and updates the rules, regulations, safety standards and operating procedures for diving in the country, as well as for marine conservation, particularly in those areas of high touristic value.
The PCSSD also provides formal training to our dive guides to equip them with science-based knowledge on the marine ecosystem in their respective localities.
The Philippines has a “no marine life manipulation” policy in our underwater photo competitions and emphasizing this in the winning photos.
We also support and participate in coastal clean-ups in partnership with dive stakeholders in the local community to combat marine pollution and promote sustainable practices.
Following this, we are dive tourists as our allies in our advocacy, given the relationship between diving and conservation, and that the diving community is increasingly becoming involved in environmental protection initiatives, more often as part of their recreational activities.
BTN: How important is tourism to the Philippines more generally? Will this title and trophy offer a boost to the sector as it reopens in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic?
BRP: In 2019, prior to the pandemic, the tourism industry contributed 12.8 percent to our country’s GDP and provided 5.7 million jobs, making it a significant socio-economic growth driver for the country.
This award will help boost our efforts to promote and market our tourism destinations, especially now that we are trying to regain travellers’ confidence to visit our islands, along with our preparations for the eventual reopening of the country to foreign tourists.
While the recognition is on being the World’s Leading Dive Destination, the interest and curiosity can cascade to the other tourism products that we offer.
Find out more about visiting the Philippines on the official website.