THE Department of Tourism (DOT) has projected “over 1 million” foreign visitors by the end of the first quarter this year, as it intensifies its marketing efforts for the Philippines in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
This was the optimistic prediction of Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr. even as he announced the agency’s visitor arrivals target for 2014 at 6 million, down from the 6.8 million target the agency officially uses for budgeting purposes.
The Philippines has missed its visitors’ targets in the past two years owing to diplomatic issues, political skirmishes in the south and natural calamities, which have discouraged the arrival of more foreign tourists.
In an interview on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing, entitled “Enhancing Resilience to Sustain Inclusive Growth,” at the Philippine International Convention Center on Tuesday (March 18), Jimenez expressed confidence that some 500,000 foreign visitors arrived in January and February this year.
The first quarter of the year usually brings in foreign tourists, especially for the Yuletide-New Year holiday, as well as the Chinese New Year. Last year the Philippines attracted 1.15 million visitors in the first quarter alone.
The DOT chief said his agency is intensifying the Philippines’s exposure in markets, such as Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, India and the Middle East.
This is aside from the DOT’s new marketing tack to promote the Philippines and its major provincial destinations in the European market.
In an interview with the BusinessMirror in January, Tourism Assistant Secretary for Market Development Benito Bengzon Jr. said: “For 2014, we have identified new opportunity markets in Europe, such as France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Spain and Russia. Through a strong market development push, we hope to generate more than 250,000 arrivals from these markets, with France and Russia expected to provide about 50,000 each. Together with existing key markets in Europe, such as the United Kingdom and Germany, we hope to generate a total of over half-a-million visitors from Europe this year.” (Click "DOT ‘sees’ 5.7M tourists in 2014; more Europeans eyed," BusinessMirror, Jan. 11, 2014.)
Meanwhile, Jimenez said the agency will also be implementing “tactical campaigns” for Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.
“The Philippines’s is Singapore’s value extension, especially when we become the destination of cruise lines that are docked in Singapore. That is why we are working closely with the Singapore Tourism Board and cruise-line companies, such as Carnival Cruises, Genting World [Star Cruises], Royal Caribbean International, etc., on this,” he explained.
While Chinese tourists continue to flock to the Philippines for rest and recreation, diplomatic issues between both countries continue to put a damper on their arrival.
Similarly, Hong Kong’s recent visa restrictions on travel to the region affecting Philippine government officials indicate the continuing undercurrent of tension between both countries, stemming from the botched rescue of Hong Kong tourists in 2010, and the Philippine government’s refusal to apologize for it.
Chinese visitors accounted for 9.11-percent market share of the 4.7 million total tourists to the Philippines last year; Singapore was 3.74 percent; and Hong Kong 2.69 percent.
Jimenez’s optimism is also shaped by the fact that the Philippines is looking to add at least 26 new inbound flights that would generate some 10,404 additional seats per week.
These new inbound flights and additional flight frequencies could come from Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Brazil and New Zealand, which have conducted bilateral air negotiations with the Philippines recently.
During the economic briefing, Jimenez stressed the importance of developing competitive tourism products and destinations, which can fuel inclusive growth through generating quality jobs and business opportunities in host communities.
“The merits of visiting the Philippines have been noticed by publications such as Condé Nast and the New York Times in the past year. Our international tourist receipts have grown by 15.38 percent in 2013. However, we are not going to rest on our laurels, but continue to develop competitive tourism products and destinations so that we can augment and sustain this rapid growth well into the future.”
(This piece was originally published in the BusinessMirror, Jan. 11, 2014.)