A content analysis of the future of tourism through the presidential state of the nation address in the Philippines (1987-2019)

Robert Charles Capistrano (School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA and Hainan University-Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College, Hainan University, Haikou, China)
Paul Anthony Notorio (De La Salle University – Dasmarinas Campus, Dasmarinas, Philippines)

Journal of Tourism Futures

ISSN: 2055-5911

Article publication date: 26 August 2020

Issue publication date: 4 June 2021




This study aims to examine the underlying statements with regard to strategic directions and action programmes on tourism found in the state-of-the-nation address (SONA) speeches of six Philippine presidents – from 1987 to 2019. The researchers believe that president SONAs are usually reflective of their plans and are strong indicators of their interest, which could particularly influence the Philippine tourism planning and development. Currently, the lack of guidance in the theoretical framework and research discussion in exploring the Philippine tourism policy and development priorities using presidents’ SONA speeches are found wanting. Scenario planning approach was used as a framework.


Scenario planning approach requires inputs from an advisory group to create scenario drivers. As inputs, the presidents’ SONA speeches were used in this study while the researchers assumed the role of scenario thinkers. The speeches were downloaded and imported into a qualitative data software. Through a series of text search with regard to strategic directions and action programmes on tourism, underlying statements were subjected to content analysis to create nodes. The nodes were used as the basis in creating scenario drivers, which became the basis in creating the model. The models underwent the following validation procedures: researcher, concept and literature review.


Based on the data, there are three identified major drivers of the present and future of Philippine tourism; these are tourism policy, tourism development and prospects for the future (temporal element). It also indicates tourism development and temporal element as dominant, with very few on tourism policies. By combining the tourism policy and tourism development, the development of the tourism policy and development confluence model was created. Meanwhile, the addition of the temporal element provided a third scenario driver that led to the creation of the dimensions of tourism policy and development scenarios.

Practical implications

The developed model can be adapted to many contexts that extend even outside of tourism. The public tourism offices, such as the department of tourism and the regional, provincial, city and municipal tourism offices, can use the model to help them prioritise tourism development programmes and lobby for tourism policy creation.

Social implications

The model will significantly assist decision-makers and policymakers to be conscious in crafting and enacting their tourism plans and programmes. It presents tourism policy and tourism development as scenario drivers that are interrelated; hence, a mutual relationship between the executive and legislative sectors of the government can be expected.


The study positions its originality and value in three areas: scenario planning, tourism future and president’s interest in tourism. In terms of scenario planning, the study was able to present interaction among three scenario drivers compared to most models that only have two. In the area of tourism future studies, this study claims that qualitative historical data can also be used to predict future scenarios. Despite the limited literature examining the tourism interest of the top-level administration, using speeches made by head of state is found plausible to predict the future of Philippine tourism.



Capistrano, R.C. and Notorio, P.A. (2021), "A content analysis of the future of tourism through the presidential state of the nation address in the Philippines (1987-2019)", Journal of Tourism Futures, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 131-146. https://doi.org/10.1108/JTF-05-2020-0075



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Robert Charles Capistrano and Paul Anthony Notorio.


Published in the Journal of Tourism Futures. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this license may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode


Whoever does not look back to where one came from will not be able to reach one’s destination. – Dr Jose P. Rizal, national hero of the Philippines

Using the state-of-the-nation address (SONA) speeches delivered by the Philippine presidents may be worth examining to understand how tourism policies and programmes are shaped and redefined. The study analyses the strategic directions and action programmes of Philippine tourism statements found in the SONAs of six Philippine presidents from 1987–2019. The aim is to develop a scenario framework of the future strategic tourism policy and development in the Philippines.

Tourism policy and development is a well-researched area in tourism, as evidenced by the number of publications (Dredge and Jamal, 2015). Similar studies have analysed the speeches, but these mostly point out to the rhetoric and non-tourism-related topics (Adjei et al., 2015; Calonge and Talili, 2016; Dunn, 2018). Many of these related studies in tourism policy focus on the economic perspective. The study of Dwyer (2015) highlighted the importance of a quantitative tool, specifically the use of the computable general equilibrium (CGE) models in developing tourism policy. CGE models assert their importance in the area of economics as a basis for crafting and implementing policies. In a developing nation like the Philippines, tourism is tapped and developed primarily for its economic benefits to create a sustainable tourism industry as its long-term goal. However, the CGE model is limited to presenting the economic and some environmental aspects. There is a need to incorporate other areas of tourism that are qualitative in nature such as the socio-cultural aspect. This was addressed by Tressider and Deakin (2019) who stated that the socio-cultural aspect contributes an intangible aspect that makes a better tourist experience. This contribution is difficult to identify and even be harder to quantify. Hence, a qualitative analysis is needed to posit sustainability.

Tourism policy and development in the Philippines

Currently, the National Tourism Policy Act (NTPA) of 2009 and the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) of 2016-2022 serve as the nation’s framework towards tourism policy planning and development. The NTPA serves as the highest order of tourism policy in the country. The law affects tourism and tourism-related offices in their structure, functions, responsibilities, funding, operations and taxation. It also promotes tourist accessibility and tourism culture. All future tourism-related policies must be anchored to the NTPA. Meanwhile, the NTDP serves as the benchmark of success of tourism from the local to the national level. The NTDP has outlined strategic directions and actions for Philippine tourism. The directions are clustered into two directions: first is the improvement of competitiveness, and the other is sustainability and inclusivity. Each direction is further divided into action programmes. The direction of competitiveness covers the following action programmes: transportation infrastructure development, travel facilitation, tourism investment and enterprise, product development, marketing, human resource and quality standardisation. Meanwhile, the sustainability and inclusivity direction have the following action programmes: medium, small and micro enterprise (MSME) development, gender and women empowerment, cultural offerings, environmental preservation and climate change adaptation and risk and crisis management. The framework of the Philippine tourism policy is similar to that of Portugal whose tourism policy is also based on similar national policies (Baptista et al., 2019).

Tourism policy planning and development in the Philippines is highly influenced by government policies, which indicate a top-down approach (Dela Santa and Saporsantos, 2016). This means that the government dictates policies in a bureaucratic and centralised process (Boukas and Ziakas, 2015). In the Philippines, the local government plays a major role in achieving the desired direction of the country’s tourism industry (Hartley, 2018) wherein local policies and budget foster sustainability (Ocampo et al., 2018) and empowerment of the local community (Brillo and Boncocan, 2016). Hence, the role of the national government is equally important to the success of the nation’s tourism with its enabling policies that would greatly influence local tourism development. In the same manner, its political views with other countries would also have significant impact to international tourism (Tseng and Huang, 2017). For instance, there was a shift in inbound tourism of Americans as the top tourists during the early stages of the post-martial law (early 1990s), as supposed to the Koreans as the top foreign inbound tourists in the Philippines today. Currently, there is also a steady increase of Chinese tourists in the country because of the economic ties between the governments of China and the Philippine administration (Rabena, 2018).

Top-down approach in tourism policy planning and development

The role of the president is vital in the overall direction of the state, particularly in tourism planning and development. Through the SONA, the president’s plans and achievements are summarised, which informs the general public on the nation’s current situation. Each of these SONAs has a different content, but it mostly revolves around the nation’s economy and socio-political landscape. The SONA could also enable the public to infer about the president’s political stand and leadership style (Sy et al., 2019) and concrete projects (Adjei et al., 2015). However minimal, the researchers strongly believe that presidential speeches could provide a glimpse on tourism priorities and tourism development, especially for developing countries (Adu-Ampong, 2017). Hence, the study was conducted to evaluate each president’s extent of priority in tourism and tourism development.

The SONA is not a guarantee that the president’s plans will always be translated into definite and immediate action. Problems may arise due to differing views and communication between and among national and local government offices (Sommer and Helbrecht, 2017) and inconsistencies among the priorities of the succeeding leaders. This requires the need to examine first the intentions of the administrations and why these plans are not translated into action. Hence, the study made attempts to address this problem by using presidents’ SONAs in different presidential terms as a basis for determining their intentions and its translation into reality. The study emphasises the need to examine the speeches to understand the present situation and predict future scenarios of tourism in the Philippines.

The closest literature that examines the interest of tourism by the president was done by Adu-Ampong (2017). He conducted a contextual analysis of the president’s speech by doing word count. The study is novel for its use of the SONA speeches to examine the tourism interest of a nation’s leader. However, the study lacks guidance of a theoretical framework and deeper and comprehensive discussion on methodology. Hence, this study is made. The study will attempt to adopt an appropriate framework, specifically the scenario planning approach, that will be useful for leaders and decision-makers in tourism. Moreover, this study will provide a detailed methodology for the purpose of replication.

The future of tourism policy and development

For this study, scenario planning aims to paint a picture of the future, specifically in tourism policy planning and tourism development. It is rooted in a constructivist paradigm revealing meaning of knowledge through discursive practice (Yeoman et al., 2012). Discursive practice is achieved by organising complex knowledge into a simpler one. Scenario planning is a time-consuming process and even takes more time to be applied (Yeoman and Beattie, 2005). It involves consideration of internal and external factors on a local, regional, national and global level. Analysing these internal and external factors is needed to anticipate and develop possible future scenarios (Awedyk and Niezgoda, 2016; Postma, 2015).

The process of scenario planning is best exemplified in the paradigm of Yeoman et al. (2012). Scenario planning starts with the creation of an advisory panel comprised by key stakeholders. This group will then establish their mission and aims and usually is based on their epistemological positioning (Postma, 2015). With the need to describe the epistemological positions of the panel, these people will embark on four phases of study: exploration, construction, development and analysis. The exploration stage’s end goal is to identify the scenario drivers. After the scenario drivers are identified, different scenarios will be constructed based on the interaction of the said drivers. Then, the scenario development stage will explain the interrelationship among the other scenarios, and the scenarios may be further updated, extended and refined based on their relevance, plausibility and consistency. Lastly, the scenario analysis stage presents the scenario matrix where each axis forms the identified scenario driver and the quadrants form the scenarios. Scenario planning matrices may be adapted into many situations depending on the predominant factor in a given geographical limitation. Throughout the scenario planning process, narratives are heavily used, which make it a useful process to examine the SONA speeches of the presidents.

Scenario planning has been presented in various ways in many destinations around the world. A study in China (Luo et al., 2020) identified carbon emission levels and economic prioritisation as the scenario drivers. This resulted to five different scenarios classified from worst (low tourism and high carbon emission) to best (high tourism and low carbon emission). Another study on scenario planning was done by Mai and Smith (2018), set in an island in Vietnam, applied system dynamics model to determine how the tourism development and environmental management interact. Five scenarios were created, starting from a base case scenario, that depicts the current situation of the destination, to different future scenarios. These ranges from the best and worst case, where sustainable tourism development is promoted and disregarded, respectively. Postma (2015) took the scenario planning study further by examining the scenario planning approaches developed and used by the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) and identified lines of research to where knowledge can be developed in the following areas: scenario planning and planning paradigms, environmental scanning and modelling, driving forces and uncertainties, crafting of scenarios, implications of scenarios, transforming scenarios to policies and strategies and implementation.


This study adapted the scenario planning process of Yeoman et al. (2012). This starts with the identification of the advisory panel. The role of the advisory sources was divided into two in the context of this study: the main advisory sources and the scenario thinkers. The main advisory sources were the presidents, through their SONA, while researchers, assumed the role of scenario thinkers who will create and develop the scenarios, as dictated by the speeches of the presidents.

The scenario planning process is conducted in four phases. The first stage, the exploration stage’s goal, is to determine the scenario drivers. This was accomplished through content analysis of the SONA speeches of the six Philippine presidents. Table 1 provides the list of Philippine presidents and the years they have served their term. The transcripts of the SONA were downloaded from the official gazette website of the official journal of the Philippines. Beginning from 1986, there were 33 SONA speeches overall, spanning six presidents. Only English transcripts were used.

An inductive method of analysis was applied by importing the transcripts into a qualitative data analysis software. Specifically, NVivo 12 Plus was heavily used throughout the analysis phase of this study. NVivo was used primarily for its fast query running and powerful visualisation features. Text search was conducted using “tourism”, “development” and “policy” as keywords. The text search setting was set to find synonym of the keyword. Afterwards, the statements were coded by creating nodes and sub-nodes. These nodes were the basis in identifying the scenario drivers.

The second phase, scenario construction, was established based on the polarisation of each scenario drivers where two ends comprise a positive and negative side. The interrelationship of the scenario drivers created different scenarios (third phase). Lastly, the fourth phase, the analysis stage, depicted the scenarios in diagrams in two phases. The first phase done by combining the two scenario drivers. This resulted in a two-dimensional four-quadrant model similar to the models created by Yeoman et al. (2012). The inclusion of the third driver resulted in a three-dimensional eight-quadrant model that is unlike any previous models done. The final model was enhanced using an image editing software.

The main challenge for scholars researching the future is presenting a plausible and valid depictions of the future (Wright, 2019). Nonetheless, the results were validated through the following triangulation methods: the researchers, concept (or context of the speech) and literature review. The researcher triangulation was applied through independent work of the two authors and critiquing each other’s work and combining it into one final manuscript. The concept triangulation was done through comprehensive concept comparison of the findings against the scenario planning concepts and scenario planning models of Postma (2015), Postma et al. (2017) and Yeoman et al. (2012). Literature review was conducted to further support the findings and model created.

Results and discussion

Underpinning the key themes that evolved in the content analysis of the SONA in relation to the present and future directions of tourism are tourism policy, tourism development and prospects for the future (or the temporal element). The confluence of these different themes enabled in shaping the proposed tourism policy and development confluence model in guiding and influencing future tourism plans and programmes.

Tourism policy reflects decisions and practices by governments in collaboration with private or social actors to achieve diverse objectives related to tourism. Tourism development looks at the modification of the current environment in and its application to human, financial, living and non-living resources to satisfy human needs and improve the quality of human life through tourism (Goeldner and Ritchie, 2012). Prospects for the future examine the temporal dimension and are associated with the calls and promises to create new and modified policies and new developments in tourism.

Tourism policy

A total of six tourism policies were mentioned by four presidents. These policies were the ASEAN foreign policy in 1988 that paved a way for easier travel between countries. The foreign policy of the late President Corazon C. Aquino, which was further enhanced during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos, as mentioned twice in his SONA in 1993 and 1994. Tourism policy was mentioned again 12 years afterwards when former President Gloria M. Arroyo mentioned the heritage preservation policy of the Ifugao Rice Terraces in 2006. President Arroyo also vaguely cited “various laws declaring protected areas” during her 2008 speech that may overlap between environmental management and its implication to tourism use. The last mention of a tourism-related policy was in 2018 when President Rodrigo R. Duterte stated the policies on environmental protection of the tourism destinations in the country.

Unfortunately, many of the nation’s considered milestones in tourism policy such as the NTPA, NTDP and the National Ecotourism Strategy were not mentioned. If the SONA outlines the most important achievements of an administration, one can assume that tourism is not among those that come into mind from among the nation’s leaders. Priorities outlined in speeches do not necessarily translate into action or align into policy objectives (Adu-Ampong, 2017). The irony shows when mentioning tourism in speeches is prone to problems of inconsistencies in political objectives, more so, when tourism is not explicitly mentioned. Moreover, each administration is characterised by a change in international and domestic tourism campaign. The lack of policy hinders tourism development where political factors are among the hindrance to tourism development at the national level (Paulauskiene, 2014). This is evident on the changes of tourism marketing and development programmes each time there is a change in regime. In fact, these changes in the tourism slogan of the Philippines was criticised by former Department of Tourism secretary and now Senator Richard Gordon (ABS-CBN, 2017). The role of tourism policy should be underscored as the first driver in predicting the future of tourism of a nation. A robust tourism policy and its lack thereof form the two ends of the spectrum.

Tourism development

Contrary to the few mentions of tourism policy, there are significantly more mentions of tourism development in SONA speeches. All the country’s leaders have cited tourism developments in their speeches, both directly and indirectly. Majority of these are developments in transportation. This is understandable, given that the development in the transportation sector not only benefits tourism, but also other aspects of civil society as well.

Tourism development was first mentioned by President Aquino in 1990, with an efficiency in interisland transportation. The Aquino administration (1986–1992) marked the beginning of the revival in the Philippine tourism industry, specifically the domestic tourism market since the industry was neglected during the 20-year rule of the late President Marcos (Reider, 1997; Rodolfo, 2009). Interisland routes and vessels, including Supercat, have increased in President Ramos’ administration. In fact, his 1997 speech has the second highest number of tourism development mention among all SONA speeches included in this study. These tourism developments include increased flights and routes, new airlines, developments of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal II and III, new Batangas port and deregulation and privatisation of transportation. While President Estrada has referenced only one tourism development, which briefly mentions a vague development in transportation when he stated in his 1999 speech, “Our war on poverty is also in the emphasis on expanding the linkages between farms and markets, and between rural and urban areas, through roads, power, transport, telecommunications, and other infrastructure”.

Meanwhile, President Gloria M. Arroyo mentioned tourism development in her 2003, 2006 and 2007 speeches. In 2003, it saw the first mention of the nautical highway development. The year 2006 saw the first mention of the roll-on roll-off (RoRo) programme that integrated more island destinations and reduced domestic travel costs, especially for domestic travellers coming from lower-income groups (Rodolfo, 2009). Her 2007 SONA featured the most tourism development mention out of any other presidents included in this study. These developments are clustered into transportation and non-transport developments. Developments in transportation can be further categorised into air, water and land. During her term, air transportation developments include new and upgraded airports. At the forefront of this is the Kalibo Airport where she said “For Boracay, the leading overall destination, the Kalibo Airport is now international with an instrument landing system as we said last year”. Other developments include Sibunag, Bacolod, Dumaguete, San Vicente, Busuanga, Siargao, Baler, Casiguran, Batanes, Bagabag and Clark. The acquisition of land for Panglao airport development was mentioned during this year. Water transportation include RoRo port developments in Sibunag, Maasin, Jagna, Mambajao, Daanbantayan, Naval, Maripipi, Esperanza, Aroroy, Claveria, Pasacao. Poro Point was also developed into an international terminal. Land transport includes road developments in Puerto Princesa-Roxas, Taytay-El Nido, Taytay-Roxas and Cebu City-Daanbantayan. Mandaue-Consolacion Bridge were also mentioned. Non-transport tourism developments include the declaration of Tubbataha Reef as a national park, Central Cebu Protected Landscape and the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.

Meanwhile, former President Benigno Aquino had mentioned tourism development in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. In his 2011 speech, he cited the development of a prototype of monorail system; his 2012 speech is monumental, for it was during this time that the current tourism slogan was mentioned, “As we have already announced to the entire world: “It’s more fun in the Philippines”. Secretary Mon Jimenez has been at his post for less than a year, but we are already reaping the fruits of the reforms we have laid down. So, when it comes to tourism, we are confident in saying, “It’s really more fun – to have Secretary Mon Jimenez with us”. Year 2013 saw a vague mention of Iloilo’s ecotourism development and road developments in Metro Manila. In 2014, airport developments have earned the Philippines its Category 1 rating from the US Federal Aviation Administration. The current administration of President Duterte saw an annual statement of tourism development starting 2017. In 2017, the ASEAN RoRo shipping route was launched, which connected parts of Mindanao to Indonesia. Years 2018 and 2019 stated environmental protection of tourism destinations. The closure of Boracay was a much-circulated news, and this was included in his 2018 speech where he said, “Environmental protection and ensuring the health of our people cannot be overemphasized; thus, our actions in Boracay mark the beginning of a new national effort”. Only President Duterte’s administration was able to address the much-needed environmental protection in tourism areas as reflected in the six months closure of Boracay island in 2018 (Cruz and Legaspi, 2019).

The evidence for tourism development is said to be based on creating jobs and its ability to improve disadvantaged areas (Baptista et al., 2019). Furthermore, tourism development is the primary responsibility of the public sector. This is the reason why most of the tourism developments by administrators are centred on transportation because it benefits not only tourists but also their political constituents as well. This is reflective to the predicted importance of transportation, particularly air transportation, in future scenarios in the study of Szpilko (2015). Although tourism policy is disconnected among presidents, tourism development is built on the previous developments of the previous administration. This is evident on the progressive developments in transportation. Problem is also a good predictor for tourism development. We can see this in the cases of sustainability measures applied where environmental problems persist. Hence, tourism development was identified by the researchers as the second driver in predicting the future of tourism.

Tourism policy and development confluence

Tourism policy and tourism development comprise the first two scenario drivers. The two ends of tourism policy spectrum describe a robust tourism policy in one end and a weak tourism policy at the other end. A robust tourism policy can be both interpreted quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitative interpretation refers to the number of policies created, while the qualitative aspect refers to the characteristic of the tourism policy to address many tourism issues. Figure 1 shows this confluence. The image shows quadrants. Quadrant I is characterised by weak implementation of tourism policies and passive tourism development. Destinations in the infancy stage are within this quadrant. From Quadrant I, a destination can progress either in Quadrant II or III. A destination that progressed in Quadrant II means that it prioritised tourism development even without strong implementation of tourism policy. In most cases, this scenario of tourism may be characterised where the private sector leads tourism development without the intervention of the public sector. This tourism scenario is also unsustainable without public sector support. Another possible direction from Quadrant I is Quadrant III where tourism policies are established first before proceeding to development. This quadrant prioritises planning before action. However, this case may cause delay in reaping the benefits of tourism. Also, establishing policies first is not an assurance it will foster tourism development (Kennell and Chaperon, 2013). Quadrant IV is the ideal tourism scenario where tourism development is actively coupled with robust tourism policies. A scenario from any quadrant can move to either adjacent quadrants depending on the external forces affecting tourism and how these two drivers interact with those forces.

Generally, tourism in the Philippines may be categorised under Quadrant II with active tourism development but weak implementation of tourism policies. This is evident as the actions of the current government are towards sustainability of the destinations. Destinations such as Boracay have tremendously suffered from environmental degradation was largely due to lack of governing policies. Hence, the legislative direction is towards protecting the environment and sustainability of the future. Should the need on substantial tourism policy be addressed, the Philippines is most likely to go to the ideal quadrant IV. However, if the government fails to respond properly, it may go back to Quadrant I.

Prospects for the future of tourism policy and development

Both findings and discussions made on tourism policy and tourism development were taken into the context of the present during the respective administration. However, many of the presidents have mentioned the tourism policies and tourism developments in the context of the future. It can be noted that many of these future developments are in the transportation sector. Sustainable tourism development and tourism policies rounds up the far second and third categories among the future mentions. The state of the future of tourism policy and tourism development is also reflective of the present mentions.

President Corazon Aquino’s term has called for transportation infrastructure projects as mentioned in her 1989 and 1990 speeches. She also reiterated the need “[…] to accelerate the upgrading of our transportation system”. Meanwhile, President Ramos, again, had the second highest number of tourism policy and development mentions. International tourism promotion started during his term. Furthermore, the open regionalism among Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries was first mentioned during his 1994 speech where he said, “And we have committed ourselves unequivocally to ASEAN and its ideal of open regionalism”. He also called out for upgrading transport systems – a common priority shared with President Corazon Aquino. He also called for passage of laws, including the amendment of the Public Transport Service Law and aviation policies. He also pushed for the creation of the following policies: Ancestral Domain Bill, Public Transportation Services Act, Shipping and Shipbuilding Incentives Bills. Furthermore, President Ramos called for corporatisation of the Air Transportation Office and merging of the Land Transportation Office and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

President Estrada’s administration called for upgrading of and developing ports in 1999 where he stated, “We will upgrade our ports to international standards, and develop 36 feeder ports”. He also mentioned reshaping aviation policies in his 2000 speech. Meanwhile, President Arroyo had the greatest number of tourism policy and development mention. Her 2006 SONA speech had the most mention to create tourism policy and development among any presidents within the scope of this study. In the area of tourism policy, she called for airline industry liberalisation and laws on using renewable energy and coco-biodiesel and the protection of the natural resources of the Philippines. Moreover, her speech called for the passage of the Philippine Transport Security Law. Her future tourism development plans are mostly focused on the transportation sector, including road development, particularly those leading to tourist destinations, and upgrading of airports and new ports. Many of these proposed developments were also mentioned as accomplishments during her term. She also called for the shift from traditional passports to machine-readable passports where she reiterated, “Machine-readable electronic passports will enhance the credibility of Philippine travel documents, improve the mobility, and increase the prospects of Philippine business and labor”.

During President Benigno Aquino’s term, he highlighted the need to develop infrastructure to develop tourism. He also understood the benefits of sustainability and called for sustainability laws in his 2012 speech when he said, “We are hoping that Congress will work with us and pass a law that will ensure that the environment is cared for, and that the public and private sectors will receive just benefits from this industry”. Lastly, President Duterte’s 2016 speech called to develop tourism. He further highlighted future developments on roads leading to tourist sites. It was also in 2016 he said, “On the clamor of our citizens for timely issuance of Philippine passports, the government shall work towards amendment of the 1996 Passport Law to lengthen the validity of the passports from the current 5 years to 10 years”. His 2017 and 2018 speeches both called for environmental protection.

While a mention of the tourism policy and development in the future do not count as an accomplishment, it also paints a picture of the priorities of the government. Hence, the time element was considered as the third scenario driver of the future, which is discussed in the next section.

Dimensions of tourism policy and development scenarios

The confluence of tourism policy and tourism development describes the present state of tourism. However, as seen from the SONA speeches, many of the policies and development are referred to the future. This underscored the need for a third scenario driver – the temporal element. This element considers the future policies and development of the administration. Although this does not contribute to the government’s achievement and there is no assurance of policies being enacted and developments being made, it creates guidance and affects future plans and programs. Therefore, the tourism policy and development confluence model can be further improved by adding the temporal element as the third factor that interacts with the two drivers. This is showcased in the dimensions of tourism policy and development model (Figure 2).

Taking into consideration the temporal element, the model is now transformed into a three-dimensional model with eight blocks. The bottom sectors describe the possible present scenarios, while the upper blocks represent the future. Each block is related to its adjacent block. The lower block compositions are used to describe the present scenario. Short-term decisions and accomplishments can shift from any of its adjacent blocks in the bottom. Meanwhile, the upper blocks are dependent upon the lower blocks. The upper blocks are the future scenarios shaped by the present and short-term accomplishments and decisions in tourism policy and tourism development. The scenarios are allocated per block and are labelled as distant dream, vulnerable vision, favourable future, outstanding outlook, contemporary confusion, established extant, prolonged progress and concealed chaos.

Distant dream

This dimension is characterised by a future that lacks both tourism policy and tourism development. Consequently, the foundation of this kind of future is a concealed chaos. As the name suggests, the dream of an ideal tourism is distant and is the last ideal among the dimensions of the upper blocks.

Vulnerable vision

This dimension shows a future with aggressive tourism development with weak tourism policies. A destination is vulnerable to external forces, particularly a change in administration due to the weak policies. The foundation of this dimension is contemporary confusion. Lack of state involvement and interest in forging tourism policy can lead to inconsistencies. Furthermore, any policies created may not serve the best interest of the local government (Estol and Font, 2016). Aggressive tourism development may lead to over tourism (Capocchi et al., 2019) and is a point for future studies in tourism development.

Fair future

This dimension describes a future with plenty of tourism policy but with passive tourism development. The foundation of this future scenario is a prolonged progress. Ranjan (2019) asserted that if plans are not translated into actions, plans essentially remain vague.

Outstanding outlook

This is the most ideal tourism future. This future is characterised by an aggressive tourism development supported by many tourism policies. Established extant needs to be realised for this future to happen. This outlook will only be possible if there is a harmonious and systematic implementation of the policies (Wallace and Riley, 2015).

Contemporary confusion

This dimension is characterised by the present that has aggressive tourism development but lacking in tourism policies. Development is mostly done by the private sector. And, because there is a lack of tourism policy, the public sector has very little power to intervene. This dimension is unsustainable, especially if the private sector is not regulated. Decision-makers who see themselves that are within this dimension should strive to develop policies. Tourism policies is of paramount importance to take advantage of the benefits of tourism (Harilal, et al., 2019). However, tourism policies should not merely focus on just attracting more tourists, but rather on a more sustainable approach (Namberger et al., 2019). From here, a destination can slide back into concealed chaos if tourism development becomes passive. On the other hand, it could shift to an established extant dimension.

Established extant

Established extant is the most ideal situation of the present. It is characterised by both aggressive tourism development and robust tourism policies. Both tourism policies and product development are necessary both are needed to achieve competitive advantage in the future (Dwyer et al., 2007), leading to the most ideal scenario of the future. Decision-makers who see themselves as within this dimension should strive to maintain this through new or updating policies and continuous development. Otherwise, a destination can fall back to either contemporary confusion or prolonged progress.

Prolonged progress

This dimension is characterised by many tourism policies but passive tourism development. Some destinations tend to focus on ensuring tourism policies are established at first before proceeding into more development. While prioritising tourism policies may be sustainable in the long term, the benefits of tourism may be considered as an opportunity cost if development is delayed. Decision-makers who identify themselves within this dimension should strive to develop tourism more aggressively; otherwise, the situation can shift into a concealed chaos. Another problem in this dimension is when the policy-making is dominated by the government sector. Instead, the government should strive for a non-hierarchical arrangement (Petridou et al., 2019).

Concealed chaos

This is the least ideal dimension under the lower blocks. It is characterised by the lack of tourism development and tourism policy. Places categorised under this dimension can either be those institutions who have zero tourism development and want to develop it or those previously developed destinations who failed to sustain its success due to lack of development and obsolete policies.


SONA speeches revealed that tourism development in the Philippines outpaces the creation of tourism policy. This may be attributed to the fact that the sources of data are from presidents who are part of the executive branch of the government. However, the speeches do not merely reflect the accomplishment of one president but the entire government as well, and this includes legislations. This study strongly suggests that the SONA speeches may not be a good source for tourism policy accomplishments. On the other hand, it is a good source for the most significant tourism development achievements. Most of the tourism development are in the sector of transportation, but sustainability has seen an increase in priority in recent years. This is understandable because politics will dictate that the executive and legislative branches will most likely enact and create laws in tourism that will also benefit their constituents. Hence, we can predict that the most likely areas of development in the future will be in transportation and sustainability. A president’s call for creation of laws and future development is important, especially during the first half of their term where they have more chance to achieve them. The continuity of tourism policy and development between terms, however, needs further investigation.

The main contribution to knowledge of this study in the field of tourism futures identifies the three major drivers of the present and future of tourism based on the SONA speeches. These are tourism policy, tourism development and prospects for the future (or the temporal element). The interaction among these three led to the development of the dimensions of tourism policy and development model. The model is divided into eight blocks of dimensions that describes the most ideal present and future scenarios. This paper contributes to the scenario planning knowledge by introducing a third scenario driver into the usual two drivers. The study recommends using the temporal element combined with two other scenario drivers to provide link between the present and the future. However, the model, like other scenario planning models, can also be modified based on the needs of the study. Hence, the model presented is not only useful in scenario planning for tourism policy and development, but also because of its flexibility to be used in multiple types of situation.

The dimensions of tourism policy and development Model is able to satisfy the characteristics of an effective scenario planning. It was able to maximise the needed creativity and lateral thinking (Yeoman et al., 2012) and identify major drivers (Postma, 2015) by analysing external and internal factors (Awedyk and Niezgoda, 2016). Although the sources of data were internal (SONA), the results were analysed in the wider context of the tourism industry and its stakeholders. It further extends its value for its practical use and relevance among key players and decision-makers in the tourism industry. At the macro level, the national tourism offices, such as the Department of Tourism (DOT) in the Philippines, can lobby for a needed tourism legislation where it is needed the most. At the provincial and city or municipal level, the model and be used for present decision-making to steer towards the desired future. Private individuals can also use the model to examine its existing policies and development plans and forecast its future. Thus, the model is also valuable for its strategic importance. The model can also impact the way tourism policy planning and development is taught. The model can be used as a planning tool to examine the policy and development needs of a destination.

Methodologically, this study was able to provide a scenario of tourism in the Philippines through the SONA using scenario planning. Future studies may examine the phenomenon to understand the future of tourism while critically analysing past SONA speeches of other nations. The model can also be used by other institutions to examine the future of tourism planning and development in a given destination. This paper also recommends future studies in scenario planning to adapt a three-dimension model utilising different scenario drivers.


Tourism policy and development confluence

Figure 1

Tourism policy and development confluence

Dimensions of tourism policy and development scenarios

Figure 2

Dimensions of tourism policy and development scenarios

List of Philippine presidents vis-à-vis SONA from 1987–2019

Name of president Term Number of SONAs
Corazon Cojuangco Aquino 1986-1992 5
Fidel Valdez Ramos 1992-1998 6
Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Jr 1998-2001 3
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo 2001-2010 9
Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino, Jr 2010-2016 6
Rodrigo Roa Duterte 2016-2019 4
Total Number of SONA transcripts analysed 33


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The authors would like to dedicate this paper to the former Secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT) Philippines, Ramon Jimenez Jr. who facilitated in shaping the National Tourism Development Program (NTDP) for 2016–2022.

The second author would like to acknowledge the University Research Office of De La Salle University – Dasmariñas for research funding.

Corresponding author

Robert Charles Capistrano can be contacted at: robert.capistrano@asu.edu

About the authors

Robert Charles Capistrano is based at the School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA and Hainan University-Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College, Hainan University, Haikou, China. He is a Lecturer in Arizona State University’s School of Community Resources and Development and is based in Hainan University – Arizona State University International Tourism College in Hainan province in Haikou, China. His research interests are: visiting friends and relatives (VFR) travel, sustainable tourism, consumer behaviour, Filipino culture, and tourism marketing.

Paul Anthony Notorio is based at the De La Salle University – Dasmarinas Campus, Dasmarinas, Philippines. He is a Faculty of the Tourism Management Department, College of Tourism and Hospitality Management, De La Salle University – Dasmariñas in Dasmariñas City, Province of Cavite, Philippines. His research interests are: tourism development, tourism policy, and sustainable tourism.

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