Philippine tourist arrival is growing at a steady rate. The Department of Tourism reports that in May 2017, for the first time this year, visitor arrivals surpassed the 500,000 mark at 532,757, a 19.6% increase compared to May 2016. Visitor arrivals have been recorded from Asia (63.11%), Americas (19.01%), Europe (8.78%) and Australasia (4.75%).
With this bright outlook for tourism and to further bolster the industry, compliance with the recently formulated Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) on Tourism Professionals by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is necessary.
The ASEAN MRA facilitates the free movement and employment of qualified and certified personnel among ASEAN member countries to boost job opportunities in hotels and resorts across the region. It also seeks to standardize training for employees and tourism education for students, and encourage best practices across the ASEAN.
“It aims to open up the region to talented and skilled tourism professionals to work anywhere within the region. With the new ASEAN MRA, the tourism industry is set to be more professionalized in all of the ASEAN. This means that the quality of service and products relating to tourism will be more standardized,” states Tina Aquino, chairman of the Tourism Industry Board Foundation, Inc. (TIBFI).
The ASEAN MRA will be one of the topics that will be discussed at the 4th Tourism Human Resources Congress on Sept. 25-27, at the Grand Xing Imperial Hotel in Iloilo City. Organized by TIBFI in cooperation with the Department of Tourism (DoT) and its attached agencies, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), the 4th TIBFI Tourism Human Resources Congress will discuss how human resources affect the customer experience in hotels, resorts, and other tourism-related industries. It will focus on the training, development, and improvement of the human resources sector of tourism-related firms, as well as highlight the different issues and factors that influence entrepreneurship and employment.
Prior to the 4th Tourism HR Congress proper is Camp Assess, a 2-day workshop that recalibrates TESDA assessors on ASEAN MRA on TP competency based assessment methods. Trainers for Camp Assess will be the ASEAN Masters from the Philippines for the six qualifications.
“Tourism is a driving force in the ASEAN economy, more so now. This is why it’s very important to standardize the industry so we can serve this growing market,” adds Aquino. “It’s no longer going to be the case that someone will get hired just because he comes from a certain country. With the MRA, it becomes a meritocracy wherein the best ones get jobs from anywhere in the ASEAN region. Now, the ASEAN becomes a free market of tourism wherein professionals from all over the region are ready to enter hotels or resorts in any country with the proper skills,” Aquino adds.
One of the sectors that is also in preparation mode for the ASEAN MRA is education, particularly, schools offering tourism and hotel and restaurant management courses. Schools are urged to have more practical and intensive on-the-job training programs that will help students acquire the needed skills to become a tourism professional.
“A vibrant tourism industry starts with training and the only way they can apply those is through OJTs. This is why we now encourage hotels, resorts, and restaurants to give more hands-on trainings to students,” says Aquino.
For its part, TESDA has also set up a training program with certification to reinforce skills of tourism professionals who want to recalibrate what they have learned to comply with the new MRA.
“The TESDA program will benefit companies who sign up their employees for trainings because the quality of service can be improved,” adds Aquino.
In cooperation with tourism departments and ministries from different countries in the ASEAN, there has also been a partnership agreement set up by the DOT to foster a freer exchange of resources.