Alberto Lim as DOT Secretary New tourism secretary
Makati Business Club (MBC) executive director Alberto Lim has been appointed as the new secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT), in place of Joseph Ace Durano. Secretary Lim will have the chance to manage a more vibrant tourism industry and a stronger DOT organisation, following the enactment of the Tourism Act of 2009.
Before his appointment, Mr. Lim headed several boards involved in tourism. He co-founded the Freedom to Fly Coalition, which advocated an open-skies policy as a strategy to promote economic development. He was also a member of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Mr. Lim also founded the Palawan Tourism Council, which is responsible for Palawan’s rise as a veritable tourist destination.
“The position offered (DoT Secretary) presents a unique opportunity to develop tourism as a major engine for growth, providing jobs in the countryside, and helping reduce poverty,” he said.
Mr. Lim founded the El Nido Foundation, which was responsible for the El Nido Protected Area Management Board that helps people in communities improve their way of living. He served as long-time president of Ten Knots Corporation, which operates the El Nido resorts in northern Palawan, until 2006.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Ateneo de Manila University, a master’s degree in business administration from the Harvard Business School and a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government.
Secretary Lim, who once managed the most luxurious resorts in Palawan, has disclosed his goal of doubling tourism revenues in six years while avoiding the mass-market route taken by Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries.
The Philippines generates only about US$2.25 billion in annual tourism revenues. "We want double that, at least," said Mr. Lim. "I would like to go for quality tourism and just make up for the lack of [tourist] numbers in revenues," he said. "Unbridled tourism is also bad because the environment suffers. So, we are very careful about the type of tourism we want. The people who come for culture, history and nature, maybe we can receive them."
Over three million tourists visited the country in 2009, down 3.9 percent from 2008, as tourism worldwide retreated amid the global financial crisis. Secretary Lim said the Philippines has terrific potential, because of its fine-white beach sand. "The beaches in the Philippines are better than Indonesia or Thailand," he said.
He said his first priority is to open up Philippine skies further. He noted that there are three times as many flights between Japan and Thailand as between Japan and the Philippines. "Access creates investments, investments create hotel facilities and that will also lower prices," he said.
Secretary Lim cited nature tourism as one niche sector that, aside from scuba diving, has yet to fulfil its potential. The Philippines should maximise its potential of being an English-speaking nation, he added.
In particular, the Philippines should be able to attract more medical tourists who feel more comfortable with English-speaking doctors and nurses.